Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
This Father's Day was very difficult for me. Recollections of my own father were the same as always, filled with gratitude and familiar longing, now 33 years since his death. As well, the usual awareness of my own shortcomings as a dad and my appreciation for the patience and forgiveness of my children were similar to that of previous years.
As a foster, adoptive, and biological father, however, I was overcome with thoughts of the countless immigrant fathers separated from their children on this Father's Day - in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and here in Ohio. My prayers kept returning to Marco Antonio Muñoz, the 39-year-old Honduran father who led his wife and 3-year-old son across the Rio Grande last month, seeking asylum and hoping to bring them to a safer and more secure life. When Mr. Muñoz resisted being separated from them upon arrest, he became distraught and violent, and was taken to an isolation cell 40 miles away, where he took his own life.
It is natural for most fathers to protect and provide for their children. We want them to be safe and happy, to live without fear and have opportunities to grow into responsible citizens. After fleeing his homeland following the murder of his brother-in-law, Mr. Muñoz went to extraordinary lengths to protect and provide for his family, only to end his life in despair and the conviction that he had failed them.
Immigration policy is complicated and complex, and reasonable people hold a range of opinions on how it should be practiced. Compassion is comparatively simple, and reasonable people ought to be able to find ways of dealing with refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrant workers in ways that "respect the dignity of every human being." Throughout this Father's Day, as I enjoyed my parish visitation and time with our younger two children afterward, I kept thinking about the zero-tolerance practice that is guiding our immigration practice and putting politics before God's beloved. I kept imagining with horror how it must feel for the children who are taken from their parents, for the parents who must relinquish them, and for the immigration and public safety officials who must carry this out.
As Christians, we believe that all children are God's own. They are, therefore, our little sisters and brothers, our daughters and sons, if we are God's own. As Americans, we can act to protect and provide for them, as their fathers and mothers yearn to, by making clear to our federal and state representatives how we expect these least among us to be treated in America. We will not all have the same perspective and opinion as to how this should be carried out, but we do all have the same responsibility to act on their behalf. That is the privilege and obligation of a democratic society.
We may or may not have an immigration crisis; that is up for debate. But we clearly have a moral crisis. We can hold immigrant parents accountable for their actions in bringing their children to our land, whatever their reasons and legality. But we must equally hold ourselves accountable for how we treat them when they arrive here. One important way of doing that is by entering the conversation. Contact your representatives and make yourself be heard. Let them know what you believe is acceptable and what is not. A helpful resource is the Episcopal Public Policy Network (https://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org). Select Take Action and you will find an action alert about family separation, through which you can submit a prepared statement or write your own. In filling out the form, your elected representatives will be identified.
How we act as a society in treating those who come to us seeking our help and God's love is our shared responsibility. Please exercise your responsibility as an American and your compassion as a Christian by joining the conversation.
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.
Bishop of Ohio