VAIPL Calls for Faithful & Humane Immigration Policy

America’s Department of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, the President and legislators have instituted a zero tolerance immigration policy for people at our southern border. Let’s acknowledge that many of these people are women and children seeking asylum from death and most all are running from the chaos and violence of their home countries overrun by government corruption, gang violence, and the impacts of the climate crisis.

Zero tolerance for this administration includes criminalizing and imprisoning adults separating their children sending them all around the U.S. to be held in tent facilities, repurposed warehouses, and what amounts to juvenile detention centers. What this administration is doing is not tough policy but maniacal and depraved politics.

As a person of faith who studies the Bible, theology, and ethics as a way of life I count these policies among those of the cruelest leaders of the sacred text. A pharaoh of Egypt ordered that Hebrew male babies be thrown into the Nile River immediately after their birth to quell the immigrant population. This was an infamously evil act and it became the standard by which the Jewish people were to judge their treatment of the alien, stranger and immigrant. It became the oft rehearsed example for how God’s people were not to treat immigrants. A simple google search turns up more than 14 scriptural texts that refer to these principles. They have the common theme that the immigrant should be welcomed, clothed, fed, and offered succor as natives to the land. Exodus 23:9 “You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.”

Some may be wondering why and how this might relate to the mission of Virginia Interfaith Power & Light. Our mission is to work with people of all faiths to ensure healthy communities and climate justice through education and advocacy. This work and mission is increasingly related to immigration as we see the consequences and impacts of the climate crisis grow around the globe. In our hemisphere, more peoples will be driven from their homelands due to drought, wildfires, floods, severe storms, insect infestations, and extreme heat waves. A global community that strives for human rights will be called upon to respond with support and welcome to the many who will be displaced. The negative trend in this nation, coming from the leadership in government and supported by some citizens, to respond with negative immigration and hard hearted zero tolerance policies exacerbates the suffering of those seeking refuge and may lead to even more diabolical remedies.

As a nation it is imperative that we grapple with these challenges faithfully and employing the democratic values that claim all men {SIC} are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. While those words were originally penned to only include free land-owning white males, the processes of democracy have expanded to recognize formerly enslaved people, women, the disabled, all creeds and those whose national origins were elsewhere, in other words, immigrants.

The members of Virginia Interfaith Power & Light support humane and principled immigration policy that takes into account the crisis our global community is experiencing due to climate impacts and that draws upon the values of our diverse faith traditions to care for the environment.

We appeal to the members of Congress, as a first step, to immediately pass legislation directing the Executive Branch to dismantle all aspects of the zero tolerance rules, to desist separating children from their parents, to reinstate asylum for those seeking it, and to return all children taken from their parents to their parents or nearest relatives, immediately. We further urge Congress to undertake a complete overhaul of immigration laws taking seriously the reality of climate change, governmental corruption, and gang violence for those who appear at our borders.