The Face of Immigration: Children ripped away from parents


By Robin Stephenson

Libby, 13, doesn’t know when, or even if, her mother is coming home. What she does know is fear.

On June 11, an Ohio community was left in chaos when 114 undocumented workers were arrested as part of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid of a garden center in Sandusky, Ohio. Libby’s mother was among them.

A local church* is dealing with the fallout of a community in crises. A Bread leader* from the church collected Libby’s testimony, along with three others, to share with Ohio’s members of Congress. Nicole Schmidt, a Bread organizer who lives in the community, and her pastor Calvin Dorsey, brought the written testimony to Washington, D.C., last week. Bread for the World strongly opposes any immigration policy that leads to the separation of families.

An excerpt of the testimony shows the unimaginable moment a young girl’s life is turned upside down:

“I was still in bed when I could hear someone banging on my door. Right after, there was banging on my bedroom window, so I got up to see what was going on. As I opened the door my neighbor in panic and tears asked where my mom was. I said, she’s working why? She asked if I’d spoken to her. I began to say no when she interrupted me by saying she had been arrested at her job along with many from the town. My neighbor said call your dad! I was so confused and even dumb because I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t even remember my dad’s phone number. My dad didn’t answer so I panicked. I cried on the floor hugging a picture of my mom.”

Most teenagers have a long list of things they worry about, but not whether they can bear the burden of caring for their 2- and 3-year-old sisters, whether they can assuage a toddler’s cries for an absent mother. The future is uncertain when Libby looks across the dinner table and sees her mother’s chair empty. What she knows is that it is unfair and that everyone in her community is scared.

Libby’s gut-wrenching tale made its way to the House floor when U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who represents Ohio’s 9th district, read the testimonies aloud last week—each story a painful reminder that policies have human consequences.

Libby is just one of the many faces behind the U.S. Department of Justice’s enhanced immigration policy. As part of the policy, immigration raids are more aggressive and families are being routinely separated at the border.

At its core, immigration is a hunger issue on both sides of the border. Effective reforms must address the hunger, poverty, and violence that drive migration.

As a Christian organization, Bread for the World believes family unity is key among the principles that should guide a faith-centered approach to immigration policy.

The Bible is clear that we must not oppress immigrants, but love them as we love ourselves. As Americans, we can do better. As Christians, our God demands us to do better for Libby and for the thousands of other children who deserve the right of a secure childhood.

*The church and Bread leader are not identified by name in this story to protect members of their community who continue to fear for their safety.

Robin Stephenson is senior manager for social media at Bread for the World.

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