Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan each in his own time spoke at the Berlin Wall. Kennedy asked that the wall be removed because, as he put it, it separated parents from children, husbands from wives, families from friends. Reagan again asked for the wall to come down more than 25 years later. At his urging, it did.
Each president, one Democrat and one Republican but both American, condemned the purpose, intent and the horrible effects of the wall.
The comments by the two presidents are echoed in what civil rights, religious and political groups are now saying about the wall between the U.S. and Mexico, both as it stands now and its proposed expansion.
It wasn’t too long ago that our administration proposed privatizing our prison system, notwithstanding the fact that professionals indicated it was a bad idea. Making money on misery has never been a good idea. The brother of Education Secretary Betsy Devos is one who has been pushing for privatization. Others in the administration agree.
It appears private contractors are making lucrative profits out of human misery. According to the Daily Beast, military contractors are making tens of millions of dollars detaining and housing prisoners as families are being torn apart at the border. While enraged Americans are demanding their elected representatives do something to protest the separation of children and their families at the U.S.-Mexican border, “detention centers” are being built to house unaccompanied children. The contractors are also paid additional millions to transport them to the centers in Texas.
To make matters worse, it appears the U.S. is preparing to pull out of the United Nations Human Rights Council after clashes over Israel and its excessive use of force against the Palestinians.
The Council of Catholic Bishops has condemned the treatment of children and families along the Mexican border as they race to our country for sanctuary. The bishops have gone so far as to threaten canonical penalties to Catholics participating in the separation of families looking for asylum.
It is a mark of courage that the Church is intervening. It would be another mark of courage if politicians would do the same.
The president has claimed repeatedly that the Obama administration made separation of children from parents at the border a law. That claim is demonstrably false. Just as President Obama signed executive orders, so, too, can this president. By a stroke of his pen, the president can stop the policy at our border crossings.
This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. It is an American issue. As a country, we are better than this.
Personally, I could not stand idly by while children are taken from their parents — children who are as pure as the driven snow. These children, who have broken no laws, are placed alone in detention centers. Brothers and sisters are separated. In the name of all that’s holy, how can young children — including babies — be taken from their parents and warehoused?
This is the United States of America. By God, we can and must do better.
What some forget or choose to ignore is the plight of many of the adults who are being arrested and jailed at the border. Many of them have come great distances with their children asking asylum from rape, murder and violence in their home countries. We are a welcoming, compassionate people. What is happening at our borders, in its present form, has to stop. These parents and children seek sanctuary, and we are big enough to grant it.
Like some, I ask myself whether the color of their skin and their race has anything to do with their treatment at our borders.
Think of Puerto Rico. Eight months after a human disaster, little has been done to restore essential services in a country that our Army Corp of Engineers could have reconstructed in half the time. People who are American citizens continue to suffer. Now as we enter a new hurricane season, I ask: If the Puerto Ricans were all Caucasian, would they have been treated better? Would they be the next time?
As a nation, we are simply much better than this. As a people, we know better than this. In other parts of the world, bad things have happened because good people remained silent. We are those good people. We cannot remain silent. Amen.