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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

Day 221 Friday October 23rd 2020: Why do so many who profess Christianity carry out these orders?

During the past four years we have separated thousands of children from their parents, forced nursing mothers to give up their babies and sent many parents back to their countries of origin in chains to be killed or harassed. We have just learned that our government cannot locate the parents of 545 children (if not more).

The orders for this kind of inhumane and maniacal treatment started at the top. Bureaucrats who come from posh personal backgrounds have condemned desperate asylum seekers to freezing cold prison cells. Detainees in these camps experience conditions not only worse than those of the country’s worst criminals, but worse even than the way we treat real enemies—prisoners of war. But the owners of private prisons, prison guards, border patrol agents and so many others have enabled them and make lots and lots of money. They follow orders

My question is: What is the moral and personal calculation of someone who decides to follow orders? Why do so many who profess Christianity carry out these orders?

Are we so numbed by fear and conditioned to see that “illegals” should be treated this way. There are frightening parallels…

“Don’t you see, we SS men were not supposed to think about these things; it never even occurred to us. . . . We were all so trained to obey orders without even thinking that the thought of disobeying an order would simply never have occurred to anybody, and somebody else would have done just as well if I hadn’t. . . . I really never gave much thought to whether it was wrong. It just seemed a necessity.”

- Rudolf Höss, the commandant at Auschwitz:

An interview with a Border Patrol officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he went along because the job paid well — more than $100,000 a year including overtime and holiday pay — and he felt like a cog in a much larger machine that would keep rolling regardless of what he did.

“I’d see kids crying because they want to see their dads, and I couldn’t console them because I had 500 to 600 other kids to watch over and make sure they’re not getting in trouble,” he said. “I couldn’t let them see their fathers because that was against the rules.

“I might not like the rules,” he continued. “I might think that what we’re doing wasn’t the correct way to hold children. But what was I going to do? Walk away? What difference would that make to anyone’s life but mine?”

One outraged DOJ prosecutor wrote to a superior: “We have now heard of us taking breastfeeding defendant moms away from their infants. I did not believe this until I looked at the duty log

Jeff Sessions, the attorney general at the time, told prosecutors in a conference call that “we need to take children away.” According to a note taken by a participant summarizing Sessions’ rationale for the approach, it was: “If they care about kids, then don’t bring them in.”

Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, told prosecutors in a subsequent phone call that they should file federal cases for illegal entry against parents regardless of their children’s age.

In May 2018 senior officials met and Sessions pressed Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to order border officers to refer all migrant families detained at the border for prosecution. Sessions told the group the aim was to “deter future illegal immigration; an illegal alien,” he said, “should not get a free pass just because he or she crosses the border illegally with a child.”

The officials voted by a show of hands. Only Nielsen kept her hand down, The next day she signed the memo that set the policy in motion across the Southwest. She knew the policy was morally wrong. Why didn’t she resign?

One career official did stand up. Martin Cetron refused to sign a public health order that would allow border agents to expel migrants and their families before they could file a claim for asylum. Cetron told colleagues that it was “morally wrong to use a public authority that has never, ever, ever been used this way. It’s to keep Hispanics out of the country. And it’s wrong.” Soon after, the head of the CDC, Robert Redfield, went ahead and signed the order.

All of them need to go.

There is hope. Reverend Deborah Lee, Sister Mary Waskowiak and so many others are actively standing up speaking truth to power. Reverend Lee writes “ The tragic situation for those detained during this time is still far from over, but with the support of congregations we hope that there will be significantly more releases than deaths of those in cages.

Let’s join her for the monthly prayer vigils that started at the Richmond detention center but are at the moment on ZOOM, on the 3rd Fridays of the month at 10 am.

(more information to follow)

There are 545 children separated from their families whose parents have not yet been located. Thousands more seeking asylum are in prisons. The question of who stands up, who doesn’t and why remains burns in my heart.

“Everything I've read about Christians in prison for their non-violent witness to Christ rings true. Whether it's St. Paul, St. Edmund Campion, Dorothy Day or Dr. King, the experience remains the same: God comes close to those in prison. God's spirit is unleashed on the person who suffers imprisonment in a spirit of obedient love. God is a God of prisoners, a God of the poor, a God of the oppressed--but most of all, as the life of Jesus testifies, a God of nonviolent resisters.

― John Dear

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