Separated families

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Thursday, June 21st, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s episode of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. First up, the separated families crisis.

AUDIO: Sound of kids crying

What you’re hearing there are the cries of children who have been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

AUDIO: Spanish words

And that was a border agent, in Spanish, saying, “Well, we have an orchestra here. What’s missing is a conductor.”

EICHER: Journalists with ProPublica obtained the audio. And it’s just one of the reasons people from across the political spectrum have spoken out against the spike in family separations. As you heard a few minutes ago, President Trump has signed an executive order to end the separation policy and begin detaining families together.

Many questions remain, but here’s what we know so far: In 1997 a federal court case ended with a settlement known as the Flores agreement. It required the government to do two things: place immigrant children in the care of the nearest relative; or, in lieu of that, house minors in the “least restrictive” way possible.

REICHARD: In 2005 the George W. Bush administration launched Operation Streamline. It was similar to a zero tolerance policy—refer all unlawful immigrants for criminal prosecutions and prompt adjudication. But with one big caveat: Adults with minor children typically went free while awaiting their trial dates.

Operation Streamline continued under the Obama administration, with prosecutions peaking at 97,000 in 2013. However, it’s important to note the number of migrant families has risen dramatically. In May 2012 fewer than 1,000 families arrived at the U.S. border. In May of this year, almost 10,000 did.

EICHER: Those latest numbers came in the month after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy. It has applied that to all adults crossing the border illegally, including those with children. And that brings us to the family separations—more than 2,300 so far, including about 100 under the age of four.

Border officials are transferring custody of children to the Department of Health and Human Services. The drastic increase in numbers has prompted HHS to set up tent cities, at a cost of $775 per child, per night. That’s according to NBC’s reporting. The tents are air conditioned, but temperatures in Texas are reaching 105 degrees.

REICHARD: Influential evangelicals have led much of the public outcry against the family separation policy. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin is here with a report.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Evangelical leaders have for weeks called for an end to the Trump administration’s family separation policy. Then last week Attorney General Jeff Sessions invoked Romans 13.

SESSIONS: If you violate the law, you subject yourself to prosecution. I would cite you to the apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.

Cue the evangelical uproar.

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told CNN Sessions misinterprets the verse.

MOORE: Romans 13 does not mean any law that the government passes or carries out is a good law or a just law. Romans 13 simply means that the governing authorities are put in place for a reason. And the reason, the Apostle Paul says there in Romans 13, is to commend that which is good and to punish that which is evil. It’s hard for me to imagine that children clinging to their parents in a very, very difficult time could be classified as evil.

The list of leading Christians who have spoken out on the issue is long. It includes Pope Francis and Franklin Graham—a member of the president’s evangelical advisory board.

And more than 10,000 evangelical leaders and lay people sent a letter to President Trump urging him to end family separations.

But the number of evangelical women taking a stand is perhaps most notable. Author Beth Moore took to Twitter to quote Matthew 18:10—saying Jesus takes personally every affront to children.

This week, the Evangelical Immigration Roundtable hosted a press call featuring several leading women. Kelly Rosati—with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference—was one of them.

ROSATI: We can all agree on one thing, or we ought to agree on one thing and that is this: We do not punish innocent children for the behaviors of their parents.

Author and speaker Trillia Newbell is with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. She says a lack of planning is a big part of the problem.

NEWBELL: I think the problem is that we are tearing people from their families… with no plan for how to get them back with their parents. And then they’re being put into just a system. This is the opposite of what we desire to do as people of God, for caring for the orphan, and caring for families.

Newbell says she is speaking out on the issue because as a mother and a minority woman with a public platform, she thought it was important to take a stand. She said Christians should be united on this.

NEWBELL: The Bible is our authority, and we have to ask ourselves: Are we submitting to that authority or are we acting in a way that is unethical? So, I do think there are ethical dilemmas that we have to wrestle through, and we have to think through what the Bible says about foreigners, about people made in his image, and about caring for the family.

Newbell’s charge to Christians echoes a complaint more than 600 clergy and members of the United Methodist Church announced against Attorney General Jeff Sessions—who is Methodist. They say enforcement of the zero tolerance policy that separates families is child abuse.

Newbell said the policy goes against God’s design.

NEWBELL: God established the family as a central building block of society, and he makes clear that what he has established, people should not separate.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Children listen to speakers during an immigration family separation protest in front of the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. District Court building, Monday, June 18, 2018, in Phoenix. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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