By Rev. Alvin Herring
“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”— Cornel West
Neither this administration’s policies nor the president’s own statements intend love or justice for black and brown people in this country. In fact they open the door for those who harbor hatred in their heart and create an environment for mistreatment and abuse.
While ramping up terror on immigrants, the President’s budget upends the lives of families trying to work their way out of poverty. More than 51 million U.S. households – 43 percent – can’t afford the basics such as food, housing, and health care. In spite of the facts, the Administration’s response would be to decimate food assistance; eliminate housing for low-income renters, including seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities; and dismantle Medicaid, which currently pays for about half of all U.S. births, among other essentials. The President’s treatment of the key issues of immigration and poverty are only two examples of many injustices.
Where is the love in these policies? Our government should help people, not hurt them.
We know what happened at previous funding levels. Four people have died in the custody of the Customs and Border Protection (CPB) since December. Thousands of children who arrived in the U.S. without their parents were sexually abused in detention facilities. U.S. citizens who are Latino have been stopped and detained — including a nine-year old girl who was held for more than 30 hours and interrogated without her mother — and, incredibly, some U.S. citizens have been wrongfully deported to countries they never knew.
With this kind of record of incompetence and cruelty, Congress should not stand for an increase in the President’s FY 20 budget for more of the same and worse. Yet, the President’s budget would increase Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and CBP’s budget by 19 percent over last year’s funding levels. It proposes hiring 1,000 more ICE agents, 750 Border Patrol agents, and funding to detain 54,000 people per day. The request also seeks more money to further militarize the border by adding aircraft, vessels, surveillance technology, and equipment on top of the $8.6 billion request for the border wall.
There is nothing to be proud of here. If the President and Congress were acting out of love, they would send doctors and social workers to the border, not soldiers and tanks. Investing in love would mean processing asylum seekers humanely and with dignity, not locking them away and allowing them to die or be sexually assaulted. Policies rooted in love would mean that every family would have what they needed, including being able to go to the doctor when they need to, sending their children to good schools, and working at a job with a living wage or better.
Instead, under the current budget, Congress has alreadygiven ICE and CBP $22.5 billion to wage a fear campaign against our siblings. To put the choice into perspective, investing that same $22.5 billion in love would have:
Clergy and people of faith around the country are calling on Congress to find the moral courage to reject the President’shierarchy of human value, where some are valued and others are not, and instead recognize and protect the dignity of each person. Congress must stop buying into the President’s narrative of scarcity, crisis, and fear andembrace its duty to improve life for all people.
Our faith compels us to love into justice. Each of us is made in the image of the divine and everyone deserves health, education, opportunity, and safety. Everyone means everyone – without exceptions. It is time for Congress to invest our tax dollars in love – of ourselves, our fellow human beings, and of our country — and end its funding of hate, once and for all.