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WHC Condemns "Zero Tolerance Policy" That Separates Families at U.S. Borders

On May 7, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the federal government would adopt a zero-tolerance policy for unauthorized border crossings. This new policy officially instituted practices that will separate children from their families and it applies to all border crossings -- even those people seeking asylum in this country.

Washington Hebrew Congregation condemns this zero-tolerance policy and has joined more than two dozen national Jewish organizations in co-signing a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen expressing our strong position on this matter:

 

Dear Attorney General Sessions and Secretary Nielsen,

On behalf of the 26 undersigned national Jewish organizations and institutions, we write to express our strong opposition to the recently expanded “zero-tolerance” policy that includes separating children from their migrant parents when they cross the border. This policy undermines the values of our nation and jeopardizes the safety and well-being of thousands of people.

As Jews, we understand the plight of being an immigrant fleeing violence and oppression. We believe that the United States is a nation of immigrants and how we treat the stranger reflects on the moral values and ideals of this nation.

Many of these migrant families are seeking asylum in the United States to escape violence in Central America. Taking children away from their families is unconscionable. Such practices inflict unnecessary trauma on parents and children, many of whom have already suffered traumatic experiences. This added trauma negatively impacts physical and mental health, including increasing the risk of early death.

Separating families is a cruel punishment for children and families simply seeking a better life and exacerbates existing challenges in our immigration system. It adds to the backlog of deportation cases and legal challenges in federal courts, places thousands more immigrants in detention facilities and shelters, endangers the lives of more children, and instills additional fear in people seeking safety in our country. In addition, those seeking asylum or other legal protection face numerous obstacles to making a claim, especially from detention. Separating family members at the border would force families into two or more immigration cases instead of a single case for each family, harming their ability to present a successful case.

Our Jewish faith demands of us concern for the stranger in our midst. Our own people’s history as “strangers” reminds us of the many struggles faced by immigrants today and compels our commitment to an immigration system in this country that is compassionate and just. We urge you to immediately rescind the “zero tolerance” policy and uphold the values of family unity and justice on which our nation was built.

Learn More:

Tell Congress, the President, ICE and the U.S. Border Patrol: Keep Immigrant Families Together

A Prayer for When Children are Forcibly Separated from Parents

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin: Family Separations "Cannot Be" U.S. Policy

Sign the ADL's petition: Separating immigrant children is cruel, unethical, and un-American

JCPA Urges Administration to End the Family Separation Policy and Uphold Our Nation’s Values of Family Unity and Justice