LIMA — Dozens gathered at the gazebo in Lima’s Town Square to join others nationwide in protest against the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from their immigrant parents when they’re detained.
“Our nation should not be about the business of enforcing our immigration laws by practicing terrorism with our children,” said Lima Mayor David Berger while speaking at the rally. “Children should not be put in a situation that will literally devastate them for the rest of their lives. We need to call this what it is: terror tactic in an attempt to influence the adults by using their children against them.”
According to information provided during the rally by Families Belong Together, 1,300 children have been separated from their parents at the American border since October. There are currently more than 11,000 immigrant children being detained in U.S. custody. The children are not all from illegal immigrant families sneaking across the border, either, but also children of families seeking asylum.
Congressional Republicans distanced themselves Thursday from the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border even as the White House cited the Bible in defending its “zero tolerance” approach to illegal border crossings.
“I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible,” said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. “It’s a moral policy to follow and enforce the law.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions had earlier cited the Bible in his defense of the border policy that has resulted in hundreds of children being separated from their parents. Speaking Thursday in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Sessions pointed to a verse in the Book of Romans on obeying the laws of government, saying, “God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”
Other recent news emphasizes the plight of children separated from their parents, people attending the rally said.
“A little more than an hour away from here in, Sandusky, Ohio, last week there was a large raid at Corso’s Greenhouse,” said Paul Neufeld Weaver, a member of Allen and Hardin for Election Action and Democracy. “114 people were detained, and with their detention 50 (children) were left behind with their parents.”
Weaver said he’s seen this before when he worked in Minnesota as a teacher. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided a meat-packing plant, and some children attending the school he was teaching at were left at the school with no one to pick them up because their parents had been detained. The staff had to look for relatives to take the children in, and some teachers took children home because relatives couldn’t be found.
Weaver said other times, children can be detained at the same time as their parents, often at the border, and can be placed in detention centers hundreds of miles away from their parents. Either option is very traumatic for the children,
The ideal solution to children being taken from their immigrant families would be the administration changing their policy and allowing families to stay together instead of actively seeking to separate them, Weaver said. Since that isn’t likely, he would like to see Congress pass legislation to keep immigrant families from being separated if the parents should be detained, he said.
“We claim we’re the greatest country in the world, but look how we’re treating our neighbors,” said Shannon Thiebeau, youth director at First Mennonite Church, Bluffton. “We claim that we’re a Christian country, but yet we’re instating and supporting these very un-Christ like practices. There are so many passages in the Bible that say treat the foreigner with kindness: Love your neighbor as yourself, love your enemy as yourself.”
Thiebeau said she would like to see area churches begin taking immigrant families in and supporting them while they become nationalized to protect them from the Trump administration’s immigration policy.
On May 23, Trump took aim at the country’s immigration laws, calling them a security danger in light of attacks by the MS-13 gang.
“We have the worst immigration laws of any country anywhere in the world,” he said during a visit to Bethpage, N.Y., “But they exploited the loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors. They look so innocent; they’re not innocent.”
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362. The Associated Press contributing to this story.