Open Letter on Separation of Families at the Border

Dr. Richard Green - President, United Lutheran Seminary

From Dr. Richard Green
Interim President
United Lutheran Seminary

The Centrality of Family and the Love of God and our Children

Leviticus 19:33-34 states, “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong, you should treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” 

And in the New Testament, Jesus Christ makes it clear that “strangers” are our neighbors — the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and the Syro-Phoenecian woman (Mark 7:24-29) among them. The infant Jesus himself was forced to flee Herod — we would call him a refugee — and seek a safe haven — we call it asylum — in Egypt. What would our world be like if his family had been refused entry? If Jesus had been wrested from the arms of his Blessed Mother?

Throughout the Bible, we find the centrality of family and the unwavering “revelation” from Jesus that children are the “heart of the Kingdom of God and the gift to God”. Many of us have experienced that sickening feeling when our very young children have wandered away from our immediate eye-sight in a crowded mall, concert, or athletic event. “Where is Kim” my wife would cry out in horror when our little 3-year-old was out of sight. I can only imagine this horror is personified in the hearts and souls of immigrant parents when their children are forcefully taken away from them. 

It is, therefore, with a sense of deep dismay and shock that the members of the United Lutheran Seminary community — most emphatically including me as Interim President— have heard the news about the attitudes and actions of some of our political leaders toward immigrant families at our border with Mexico. The policy of separating families — of tearing children as young as 3 months from the arms of their parents — as part of a “zero-tolerance” deterrence policy is morally unconscionable and profoundly un-Christian. We were relieved and joyful when the outcry of the American public was heard and an agreement to halt that policy was reached. 

However, we still are uneasy about a number of features of the current administration’s border policy, especially proposed actions to limit the access of asylum seekers to U.S. immigration processes, and to detain families in makeshift facilities featuring chain-link cages, ad hoc facilities on military bases, or regular criminal prisons for some. Immigrants without proper documents — notwithstanding the fact that they are innocent until proven guilty under the U.S. Constitution — are guilty only of misdemeanors or civil violations under current law; they do not belong in prisons, nor should they be held pending trial without access to procedures for bail under adequate surety.

As Christians, as Lutherans, and members of other denominations, as clergy and those called to serve God by seeking ordination as well as all compelled to serve our Almighty God, we join our voices in prophetic witness against these policies. We join our voices in lamentation at the inappropriate acts committed under these policies. We join our voices to call those involved to repent, to act humanely, by treating those seeking the blessings of residence in our great country as God wills all strangers to be treated, with justice and with love.

Richard Green
Interim President
United Lutheran Seminary