As a resident of McAllen, Texas, for more than 40 years of my life, I know what value immigrants bring to our community. Thousands of people cross our borders every year, enhancing our quality of life. Our community witnesses this firsthand, seeing those children, those families, that cross in search of a better life.
What is happening to children and parents fleeing torture and violence in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala is a terrible reality. Yet for most Americans, it is unimaginable. What our government has done to these families is morally reprehensible.
McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley are not about separating families. McAllen and the surrounding areas are trying to make the best of a very difficult situation. Caring people are volunteering their time to help those who are seeking a better life for their families. In fact, people of all faiths gathered in downtown McAllen last evening to join together in a prayer vigil and to say hineni, “we are here,” to help make the world a better place for peoples of all faiths and cultures.
Jewish tradition calls on us to welcome the stranger because we ourselves were once strangers in the land of Egypt. We must continue to work to realize the Reform Movement’s vision of a world where all people experience justice, compassion, and wholeness.
Although an executive order has now been signed to end the separation of families at the border, it does not address the plight of the more than 2,300 children who have already been separated from their parents under the “zero tolerance” policy. Moreover, it does not identify how or when the separated families will be reunited. We must maintain the pressure on our political leadership to be transparent and honest about what they are doing and when.
WRJ has a long and proud history of advocacy and engagement on public policy issues, and it continues with the valiant efforts needed to make real change in immigration reform. Immigration and refugee reform are some of WRJ’s high priority social justice issues because although it is not just a Jewish issue, it is inherent in our culture to assist those in need.
I cannot help but recall how children were separated from their families during the Holocaust and, for the most part, did not survive. The United States had an opportunity to help those refugees then, but we turned them away. I have a problem with us doing that again today.
Your prayers, understanding, and compassion are needed for these moms, dads, and children. Learn the facts from multiple sources about those fleeing torture and violence and then act. Help in ways that you are able. Call members of Congress and let them know that you want the heart-wrenching scenes at the border to stop.… and VOTE.
Pat Blum is a WRJ Southwest District Area Director and a member of Temple Emanuel Sisterhood in McAllen, Texas. She also serves as the congregation’s education director and as a URJ Community Leader.