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Separated from Mom on Mothers Day

What did you say to your mother yesterday on Mother’s Day? I can imagine it sounded something like this:

“Thanks for all your support, mom.”

“Thanks for being the most selfless person I know.”

“You always put our needs above your own.”

Mother’s Day is a special day to verbally celebrate and praise our mothers’ resilience and sacrificial love for their families.

However, just one week before Mother’s Day, the U.S. government announced a new policy to criminalize and threaten mothers. On May 7, on behalf of the administration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions presented a new “zero tolerance” policy toward anyone who crosses the U.S. border illegally. He made it clear that everyone who crossed illegally, including asylum seekers with children, will be prosecuted by U.S. attorneys for the misdemeanor of illegal entry. Parents will be sent to criminal custody and the children will be treated as “unaccompanied minors” (ie. treated as if they crossed the border alone) and sent to a completely different facility. Family separation is now official U.S. policy.

Family separation is now official U.S. policy.

The following statement from Monday’s announcement demonstrates the lack of understanding and compassion the administration has toward those fleeing poverty, persecution, and violence: “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.” If only it were that simple.

The only purpose of this policy is deterrence, and it’s inhumane. That’s why this Mother’s Day while I was celebrating my own mother for all her selflessness and constant support, I couldn’t help but also think of all the immigrant mothers who give up everything for their children to have a better life, especially those who spent the day forcibly separated from their children.

I couldn’t help but also think of all the immigrant mothers who give up everything for their children.

I was also reminded of a family I encountered on a recent trip to Central America. I just returned from a Migration Learning Tour to Guatemala with Mennonite Central Committee to learn more about the root causes of migration. We spent a few days in the southernmost point of Mexico, which is a major border crossing point from Central America into Mexico, and for many, eventually into the United States. We were visiting a migrant resource center to learn about migrants’ rights and how the center supports them along their journey. The center is located near a river that borders Guatemala and Mexico where many individuals and families cross back and forth.

We were there to accompany a Honduran family who had just crossed into Mexico to a nearby shelter a few towns over. This young couple and their six year old child shared that they had fled Honduras just days after the father was physically beaten and the family threatened by gang members. They were given 24 hours to leave, or they would be killed. Tragically, they had to abandon their 13 year old son who had been brainwashed and integrated into the gang.

While I was listening to the father recount their story, with their little son clinging to his mother’s leg, I couldn’t help but think of another family of three escaping life-threatening violence: Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Like the Holy Family, this family had no choice but to flee.

This mother was saving her son’s life, just like any other mother would do in that situation, including my own.

I do not know where this family ended up. I do not know if they ended up crossing the U.S. border and if now mother and child are separated. But here’s what I do know: this mother was saving her son’s life, just like any other mother would do in that situation, including my own. This mother was forced to make this choiceless choice to leave her country and the United States should not prosecute her or separate her from the only son she has left.   

 

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