Column: border children are not pawns in a political game

SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
 Bishop  Gregory L. Parkes, Diocese of St. Petersburg, addresses parishioners during his installment, Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle, St. Petersburg.  FOR FILE.
SCOTT KEELER | Times Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, Diocese of St. Petersburg, addresses parishioners during his installment, Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle, St. Petersburg. FOR FILE.
Published June 19 2018
Updated June 21 2018

The United States was built on the shoulders of immigrants and refugees who came to this country seeking freedom, work and refuge from violence. Yet, at the current moment, our rich history of welcoming the migrant is being stained by the humanitarian crisis at our southern border.

Children and parents who arrive at our border are being divided, and these fragile lives, who have been victimized in their country of origin, are now being victimized again. Families are traumatized in the name of border security, serving as pawns in a political game devoid of humanity and compassion. The country that they believed would protect them has torn their family apart and left them in a more perilous position than before.

This practice is beneath the dignity of the United States. Our country is full of good, generous and compassionate people. While we may disagree on many complex issues, let us agree that children should be protected and the family unit preserved. Otherwise, the humanity of these migrant families will be lost in the shuffle and the soul of our great nation will be compromised.

As Pope Francis said, "Each person is precious; persons are more important than things, and the worth of an institution is measured by the way it treats the life and dignity of human beings, particularly when they are vulnerable, as in the case of child migrants."

Our faith and our humanity call us to act with compassion and courage. Our social teachings have long proclaimed the dignity of the human person and called us to a special solidarity with the most vulnerable. It is our sacred duty to protect and give voice to the defenseless the unborn, the elderly, the disabled, the imprisoned, the immigrant, the refugee.

The United States has traditionally been at the cornerstone of the international humanitarian system that protects immigrants and refugees who so desperately need help. We call on all people of faith and good will to demand that the Trump administration abandon the current policies and practices that systematically separate children from their families.

We urge our lawmakers to enact a just comprehensive immigration reform package that respects human dignity, allows for asylum and ensures due process. Find a link to send a message to lawmakers on www.dosp.org.

Bishop Gregory Parkes is spiritual leader of the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, which includes 81 parishes and missions and approximately 470,000 Catholics.

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