Commentary

This Mother’s Day, I’m thinking of my son. I would do anything to protect him and help him prosper. I worry about his safety, about his fitting in. About getting lost, getting sick. He is growing up, but my love for him isn’t going away.

If that’s true for me, it’s true for my immigrant friends and neighbors, too.

Currently, families living in the U.S. with adult children who live abroad are able to sponsor those children to immigrate to America through an exhaustive screening and waiting process that can take anywhere from two to 24 years. There are substantial hurdles, but it is possible for families to be reunited.

Being with close family members here in the U.S. can give immigrants the support they need to start businesses, improve their English, and become successful Americans. Because families are the cornerstone of strong communities, family reunification benefits us all. It’s always been that way, and it’s still true.

Unfortunately, some elected officials are working to demean and dehumanize families that include immigrants, inaccurately describing family reunification as “chain migration” that brings over a string of shirttail relatives. In reality, only spouses, children, parents, and siblings are eligible for the slow and arduous process of sponsorship for immigration.

Reducing people and families to inhuman metaphors denies their dignity, and keeps families apart.

We become full people in the context of our family, and that doesn’t change as we get older. The apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy illustrates this truth. He commends Timothy’s family — his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois — as Timothy’s original teachers of the faith. The same is true today: we learn to be faithful from our parents. Weakening immigrant families weakens the church. We must be better than that.

As Christians, we believe that the good news of Jesus Christ is for all people. And so as a church, Christians must resist all attempts to diminish the humanity of our fellow human beings, and denounce efforts to undermine the family.

If my son moves to another country when he grows up, I’ll be happy as long as he’s pursuing his dream. I also hope that pursuing that dream won’t require him to leave me behind forever. Must we not extend the same grace and respect to our neighbors in the United States, who long to be reunited with their closest family members?

This Mother’s Day, I have a word for members of Congress as they make decisions about our immigration system: Don’t leave moms behind. Don’t keep families apart. Remember how important family is to you, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The Rev. Jennifer Butler is CEO of Faith in Public Life. Follow her on Twitter at @RevJenButler.

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