Statement on "Zero Tolerance" Policy on Unlawful Immigration

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Statement Regarding the U.S. “Zero Tolerance” Policy on Unlawful Immigration

+ His Eminence Metropolitan NATHANAEL

 Presiding Hierarch of the Holy Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago

Recent reports regarding the brutal treatment of families who have arrived at U.S. borders without prior authorization have prompted sharp criticisms by faith leaders and people of good will across our nation. As we learn more and more details about these practices and reflect on their impact upon both those who are directly involved and upon all of us as citizens, my heart aches and my conscience is restless.

The current “zero tolerance” policy on unlawful immigration being enforced by our federal government, which separates children from their parent(s), violates moral norms that we, as Orthodox Christians, hold sacred. It represents a practice that goes beyond differences between political ideologies, and transgresses basic human rights and foundational Christian convictions. Thus, remaining silent is, I believe, an unacceptable response for those of us entrusted with bearing witness to the Christian Gospel.

Affirming that every person is created “in the divine image” (cf. Gen 1:26), and that all of us are children of God (cf. 1 Jn 3:1-2), our tradition unequivocally teaches that every human being should be treated with respect, recognizing his or her inherent dignity regardless of age, race, ethnicity or gender, and regardless of any transgressions they or their family members may have committed.

The strict enforcement of the “zero tolerance” policy is inhumane and, therefore, sinful. To separate innocent children from their parents in an effort to deter asylum seekers and unauthorized immigrants is unnecessarily cruel and damaging to both children and their parents. Like other Christians, Orthodox Christians regard the family as a sacred community blessed by God; it is an institution that we must protect and promote, not undermine or divide. Even if such separation of parents and children is permitted by our current civil laws, the decision to remove children by force from the caring presence of their parents at our borders is spiritually unconscionable.

I offer this personal appeal to our elected officials, asking them to cease the current “zero tolerance” practice and, instead, to respond to some of our most vulnerable sisters and brothers in a manner that is both humane and pro-family. I also encourage the faithful of the Holy Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago and all who share our concerns to exercise their free speech and to call for the cessation of this barbaric practice.