JOY SYLVESTER-JOHNSON: Children

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Joy Sylvester Johnson

After a little more than nine months of waiting, my seventh grandchild, Dafydd Anders Shields made his safe and greatly anticipated arrival.

Waiting is not something I do with ease. I’ve always been a “let’s get it done” kind of person. And yet, waiting is sometimes exactly what is needed.

This period of waiting for a much loved baby to arrive has been punctuated with daily news reports regarding the treatment of immigrant children, some of whom have arrived at our borders on their own and others who have come in the arms of their parents, seeking asylum.

I cannot hold my new grandson and not be reminded that there are children now living in our country who have been separated from their own parents, whose only “crime” was seeking asylum.

So it has been a recurring surprise for me to read statements from fellow Christians reducing these children and their situations to a question of “legality.”

Because we are a flawed people, our attempts at creating a “rule of law” has often led us to do some immoral and unethical things under the banner of what is “legal.”

Have we forgotten so quickly all the legal travesties in our own history.

While these atrocities were “legal.” they were also immoral, unethical and the result of unfettered greed, ignorance and fear—a deadly combination.

Let me begin by stating : “No human being is illegal.”

(I first encountered this statement on a lapel button I was given while working with the local resistance to keep a 700 bed internment facility from being built near Goshen Indiana last year.)

I have come to believe when we use words like “illegals” to rob a people of their humanity and their true identity as children of God, we do them and God a disservice.

History has shown us the first step in genocide is to name and treat the victims, as something less than human.

Native Americans were called “savages”, Hitlers Germany called Jews “vermin”, Japanese American Citizens  were called “traitors,” arrested and held in detention camps on US soil without due process, while African men, women and children were imported as  “property” when we decided slavery was the answer to an agricultural  labor problem.

We must learn from history or repeat it making  the same tragic mistakes again and again.

Lesson One: The first step in creating a just immigration policy is to remember we are not dealing with savages, vermin, traitors, spies, slave labor or illegals, but the beloved children of God—-human beings.

Lesson Two:  using children’s suffering as a way to score political points may currently be “legal”, but it is still wrong.

Sometimes waiting is exactly what is needed, but this is not one of those times. Last night  12,800 immigrant children were being detained by the U.S. government in 100 federally contracted shelters. Daily documentation of the inhumane conditions in these facilities are legion.

My grandson won the lottery because he was born in America. The immigrant children seeking asylum at our borders deserve our nonpartisan attention and our compassion—TODAY.

They are not “illegals”—they are children.

Joy Sylvester-Johnson

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