To the Editor: Border policy unconscionable

To the Editor:

I was one of four people of faith arrested at Customs and Border Protection last year. We were arrested for the apparent crime of peacefully attempting to speak with officers of the agency responsible for carrying out the immoral and illegal policy of taking children from their families and putting them in jails and detention facilities. Now we face trial in federal court in Portland.

Here is how we came to be at Customs and Border Protection. Officers with Customs and Border Protection were using our tax dollars to wrench children, even infants, from their mothers’ arms. Many of the families were fleeing unspeakable violence, often caused or exacerbated by U.S. foreign policy. To me, as a parent and a citizen with a conscience, this was an emergency! I contacted Senators Collins and King. I wrote letters. I attended vigils.

Sen. King rightly condemned the policy and acted for change. Sen. Collins was first silent, then stalled, and eventually responded with a bland compromise plan she now admits failed completely. Meanwhile, children continued to be snatched from their parents and placed in unsafe facilities where many faced illness, abuse and even death.

Faces with this emergency, I did what I hope other parents would do for my children if they were taken from me as we sought safety and a better life. I went to the responsible agency and implored them to refuse to carry out the policy, to refuse cooperation with this criminal policy.

As much as I love my own three beautiful children, I know that the children taken from their families at the border are no less precious and worthy of safety and loving care than my own. I feel the immense tragedy of what is happening to the children at the border as much as if it were my own children. Moreover, our nation has legal obligations to these children under international laws dealing with the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. I had to act then and continue to feel the urgency of the situation as more than a thousand children remain in detention.

Citizens have responsibilities. We must not sit by while our government persecutes innocent children. I invite everyone to join with us, whether through calling their congress people, visiting the border or participation in direct action, to resist ICE/CBP and the Trump administration’s immoral approach to immigration. We will not rest until our country welcomes the stranger and builds bridges, not walls.

Jessica Stewart

Bass Harbor

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