Judeochristianity Jewish star Christian cross

We Are Losing Our Soul

C. Gourgey, Ph.D.

A father’s final good-bye to his family
Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas
(U.S. Customs and Border Protection handout)

Recently in Texas an undocumented immigrant from Honduras was breast-feeding her baby daughter in a detention center, when federal officials snatched the infant out of her arms. When the mother tried to resist, they handcuffed her.(1)

In a Tucson courtroom a Guatemalan woman wore a yellow bracelet, signifying that she had just been forcibly separated from her two young sons. When she asked the court where her sons were going and when she would see them again, she received no answers.(2)

A man from Honduras brought his family to the Texas border seeking asylum. When Border Patrol agents told him his family would be separated, he had a breakdown. Agents forcibly seized his child from his hands and put him in a detention cell. When he began punching the chain-link cell walls they locked him in a padded isolation jail cell 40 miles away. In the morning they found him dead on the cell floor in a pool of blood with a piece of clothing twisted around his neck.(3)

A youth care worker at a government-contracted shelter in Arizona quit his job after being ordered to tell three young children, traumatized and crying after authorities took them from their parents, that they were not allowed to hug each other.(4)

It is said that the devil can quote scripture.

I thought I’d take a little bit of digression here to discuss some concerns raised by our church friends about separation of families…. 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. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent and fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful.(5)

The perhaps unintentional irony behind these words from Attorney General Jeff Sessions is that the same biblical text was used to defend slavery and command compliance with the Fugitive Slave Act. And the same atrocity of separating families was practiced against those slaves. Another American tradition, like Confederate statues?

Sessions says the family separations are really no big deal, they are just “short-term” and are “not unusual or unjustified.”(6)

This is a lie.

A father’s final good-bye to his family
Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas
(U.S. Customs and Border Protection handout)

Periods of separation are frequently indefinite and can last months.(7) While some families have been reunited, many have not. The duration of separation is uncertain and potentially permanent, with no efficient procedure in place for family reunification.(8)

Trump is trying to have it both ways. The decision to prosecute legal asylum seekers as criminals is new with him. Of course he knows how odious it is, so he falsely blames it on the Democrats. “I hate the children being taken away,” he says. “The Democrats have to change their law - that’s their law.”(9)

Guess what, Mr. Trump: it’s the Republican Party that controls Congress. And even without Congress, you have the power to change the policy that you initiated.

Trump “hates” separating families so much that he and his extremist aides Stephen Miller and John Kelly think it’s a great way to please their base - don’t just keep the immigrants out, make them suffer while you do it. “It was a simple decision by the administration,” Miller said. So the Democrats didn’t make them do it after all.(10)

This story had been neglected for months, but its indecency and sadism have reached the point that finally we are hearing the beginnings of an outcry. It remains to be seen whether it will be enough.

Even the Evangelical community, possibly Trump’s greatest enabler, has had enough. Maybe. The Rev. Franklin Graham said: “I think it’s disgraceful, it’s terrible to see families ripped apart and I don’t support that one bit.” But then he qualified it with this: “I blame the politicians for the last 20, 30 years that have allowed this to escalate to where it is today.”(11) Trump, who initiated the new policy, gets a free pass. This level of moral obtuseness hardly does Graham and his community any credit.

Some protests from Evangelical leaders may be sincere; however, their steadfast and unwavering support for Trump makes their words almost meaningless. How far must this man go in violating basic decency and human rights before his pious Christian supporters rise up and say “Enough is enough”? Where is the uncompromising passion for these children that Evangelicals seem to reserve only for those unborn?

Trump has perfected the use of cruelty as a political tool. How does he get away with it, especially in a society that claims a tradition of “Judeo-Christian values”?

Arizona state assemblyman David Stringer rather indiscreetly provided the answer:

Sixty percent of public school children in the State of Arizona today are minorities. That complicates racial integration, because there aren’t enough white kids to go around. But when you look at that 60% number for our public students, just carry that forward ten years, fifteen years. It’s going to change the demographic voting base of this state, and that’s what’s going on around the country. Immigration is politically destabilizing; President Trump has talked about this; I’m very concerned about this. This immigration today represents an existential threat to the United States. If we don’t do something about immigration very, very soon, the demographics of our country will be irrevocably changed and it will be a very different country.(12)

It’s all right here: there are “not enough white kids,” nonwhite people are an “existential threat,” and here is the greatest horror of all: “the demographics of our country will be irrevocably changed.”

Note the absence of any distinction between legal and illegal immigration. “Illegal” immigration is not the issue. Color is. Ethnicity is. The Trump Administration is also making moves to reduce legal immigration as much as possible. Legality is secondary. The problem is immigration.

Some of Stringer’s Republican colleagues have disavowed his statements, but could that be because his telling the truth makes them look bad? Republican leaders at the national level have not repudiated Stringer. Trump has not repudiated Stringer. Why would he? All Stringer did was express openly the sentiments of Trump’s core base. That is all to Trump’s advantage, so don’t expect him to ruin a good thing for himself. Trump can so brazenly pursue his persecution of immigrants precisely because he knows it pleases his base. This is why it doesn’t matter what Trump does, how many gaffes he commits, how many times he embarrasses this country in front of the world, how much he and his family profiteer at our expense, even how many people lose their health care because of him - Trump’s core support will not falter because his core supporters fear and hate the people Trump is victimizing. Only emotions that strong and that raw can explain how Trump can survive an entire series of indiscretions any one of which would have destroyed any of his predecessors.

There is strong evidence that racial resentment was in fact a major force propelling Trump into the White House.(13)(14) Trump’s election was, to an extent more uncomfortable than many of us would freely admit, the desperate gasp of a white American population fearing its coming minority status by mid-century. Perhaps Trump sensed this when he said during his campaign, with more truth than many of us realized at the time, that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any voters.

A 2-year-old Honduran child cries
after mother is apprehended
(John Moore / Getty Images)

In one thing Stringer is ironically correct: we are indeed in danger of becoming “a very different country,” if hatred of immigrants remains unchecked. This country was built by people who came from beyond its shores, immigrants and slaves. But we have now become beholden to a minority that, thanks to an Electoral College originally constructed to empower slave states,(15) has succeeded in imposing its will on all of us. The grotesque future this portends is coming into view. Many of those deported were hard workers making positive contributions to society. This country needs that right now. With our aging white population, we cannot continue to thrive without help from immigrants. Yet Trump would have us believe that all those seeking refuge here, whose lives would be in danger if they waited years for all the “proper procedures” to unfold, are murderous thugs from MS-13, and his base finds that comforting.

Of course Trump doesn’t hate the policy he says he hates. He started it, and if he really hated it he has the power to change it. His administration is certainly aware of this. So Jeff Sessions quotes from scripture as an obvious sop to Trump’s Evangelical base. He must certainly think very little of those supporters, to assume that they could believe forcible separation of families is consistent with New Testament values.

But perhaps Trump and Sessions know their audience. Perhaps that really is what most of them believed, or at least accepted - hopefully until now. Perhaps it has taken a policy so brutal, so strongly reminiscent of what we did to black people during slavery, what we did to Japanese Americans during World War II, and what other despotic regimes have done to control undesirable populations, for enough people to make their voices heard and finally stop the dying of the American soul.


(1) Ed Lavandera, “She says federal officials took her daughter while she breastfed the child in a detention center,” CNN, June 14, 2018.

(2) Will Bunch, “1,475 Lost Kids, the Yellow Bracelet, and the Human Stain on American Morality,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 27, 2018.

(3) Nick Miroff, “A Family Was Separated at the Border, and This Distraught Father Took His Own Life,” Washington Post, June 9, 2018.

(4) Molly Hennessy-Fiske, “‘Prison-Like’ Migrant Youth Shelter Is Understaffed, Unequipped for Trump's ‘Zero Tolerance’ Policy, Insider Says,” Los Angeles Times, June 14, 2018.

(5) Sessions Defends Family Separation with Bible,” CNN Video, June 14, 2018.

(6) Tal Kopan, “Sessions Cites Bible to Defend Immigration Policies Resulting in Family Separations,” CNN, June 14, 2018.

(7) Derek Hawkins, “A Mother and Child Fled Congo Fearing Death. ICE Has Held Them Separately for Months, Lawsuit Says,” Washington Post, February 27, 2018.

(8) Dara Lind, “The Trump Administration’s Separation of Families at the Border, Explained,” Vox.com, June 15, 2018.

(9) Julie Hirschfeld Davis, “Trump Again Falsely Blames Democrats for His Separation Policy,” New York Times, June 16, 2018.

(10) Bob Brigham, “Trump Aide Stephen Miller Brags About Policy Ripping Immigrant Kids Away from Parents: ‘It Was a Simple Decision’,” RawStory.com, June 16, 2018.

(11) Laurie Goodstein, “Conservative Religious Leaders Are Denouncing Trump Immigration Policies,” New York Times, June 14, 2018.

(12) Republican Complains About White Kid Shortage,” The Young Turks, June 14, 2018.

(13) Michael Tesler, “Views About Race Mattered More in Electing Trump Than in Electing Obama,” Washington Post, November 22, 2016.

(14) Niraj Chokshi, “Trump Voters Driven by Fear of Losing Status, Not Economic Anxiety, Study Finds,” New York Times, April 24, 2018.

(15) Akhil Reed Amar, “The Troubling Reason the Electoral College Exists,” Time, November 10, 2016.

June 2018