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Jesuit-Educated Members of Congress Respond to Family Separation on the U.S.-Mexico Border

BY JULIA MURPHY | June 28, 2018

Chaos and political turmoil have been sparked recently by the Trump Administration’s “Zero-Tolerance” policy which has led to the prosecution of thousands of families who, fleeing violence in their home countries, have crossed the United States-Mexico border. This policy has also involved forcibly separating parents from their children. In the wake of the massive media coverage of these occurrences, many politicians, including members of Congress who are graduates of Jesuit high schools and universities, have expressed moral outrage at the Administration, calling on the President to end these policies in the name of human rights and dignity.

Since the initial outcry, President Trump has issued an executive order ending the policy of family separation at the border. However, human rights violations continue to be committed at the border and around the country by members of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Much of the nation continues to put pressure on the administration to reunite separated families and to treat migrants humanely and justly.

Fifty-eight graduates of Jesuit institutions currently serve in the U.S. Congress. As alumni of institutions which strive to promote ideals of justice in a faith context, many have spoken out again this unjust policy*:

Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA-33;)
St. Ignatius High School – Cleveland, OH ‘87, Georgetown Law ’94)

Representative Ted Lieu, from the thirty-third district of California, is a 1987 graduate of St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio and a graduate of Georgetown University Law School. He spoke out against family separation by playing a recording on the House floor of children crying while being taken from their parents. When asked to stop because of a “breach of decorum,” Lieu responded by asking the House why this was being hidden from the people, before eventually stopping the recording.

Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI-40)
Marquette University ‘78

Representative Gwen Moore, the representative for the fourth district of Wisconsin and a 1978 graduate of Marquette University, spoke out against the family separation policy after her visit to the Port Isabel detention center, which showed her first-hand the inhumane conditions under which detained migrants live.

“The conditions these children are being held in are extremely distressing. These families are vulnerable, seeking safety and asylum, but they’re being treated like subhumans,” she wrote via Twitter. “It’s extremely unclear what legal rights these children have.”

After President Trump signed his executive order on family separation, she went on to ask, “What’s going to happen to the children who are stuck, alone, without their parents in detention centers scattered throughout the country? The psychological damage has already been done. This EO doesn’t begin to solve the massive problem has created.”

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Georgetown University, B.S. ‘66, J.D. ‘69

Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, a 1966 graduate of Georgetown University and a 1969 graduate of Georgetown Law, denounced Trump’s executive order as not solving the problems he caused. In his statement, he says that “locking up whole families is no solution at all,” and that “President Trump and his enablers in Congress have taken these children hostage to try to enact their anti-immigration agenda into law.”

Durbin also attended and spoke at the Chicago Keep Families Together rally in Chicago on Saturday, June 23.

“For those of you who are parents and grandparents, imagine for a moment being separated from a child who is 5 or 6 years old,” Durbin said.

Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Georgetown Law ‘78

Senator Mazie Hirono, Hawaii senator, also a graduate of Georgetown Law, says on the floor that the Trump Administration is “playing games with the lives of innocent children,” and implores Congress and the Administration to take action beyond the executive order.

“When my family came to this country, we didn’t have anything,” she shared during an interview on MSNBC during which she compared family separation at our border to Japanese internment camps. “I didn’t speak English. I put myself in the shoes of these little kids being ripped from their parents—if my mother was taken away, I don’t know what would have happened to me and my brothers.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Georgetown University ‘80

Alaskan senator and 1980 Georgetown graduate Lisa Murkowski, emphasizing human rights, says in her statement about responding to Trump’s executive order, “We… must ensure that we have an immigration process that is humane, making certain the facilities in which parents and children are detained are appropriate, while also allowing for the consideration of non-detention alternatives. We still haven’t addressed much of the underlying issue of ensuring a fair and expiditious process for those seeking asylum. Those seeking asylum are not criminals and should not be treated as if they were. The executive order is a step in the right direction, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Rockhurst High School ‘76

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, 1976 graduate of Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, emphasizes the need for the nation to “stay outraged” until the administration reunites the separated families.  He refers to these separations as a “humanitarian atrocity.”

After President Trump’s executive order was signed, he wrote: “Trump’s order leaves us with more questions than answers: How to ensure kids are safely returned to parents? When? Where are they being held? In what conditions? What care are they getting?”




These Congresspeople and many others are drawing from the Jesuit ideals of human dignity and justice in order to enact real change in the lives of migrants. Their bold statements call attention to the policies in the United States that they believe to be outdated and inhumane. Their voices have proven to be integral to the struggle for human rights, as seen with the issuing of Trump’s most recent executive order. Their voices will continue to be integral as Congress and the people of the United States proceed with this issue.

*This list is not exhaustive.

3 replies
  1. Rita
    Rita says:

    A small point, Life and Human Dignity are not only Jesuit ideals, perhaps most importantly they are the ideals of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.

  2. Helen Deines
    Helen Deines says:

    Thanks for showing this “side” of Catholic thinking, the preferential option for the poor, the recognition of God’s face in each and every person, and faith in action. This is the faith in which I was raised, and sometimes seems to be slipping away as politics and the U.S. hierarchy are too often one.


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