For Families at the Border: IMMEDIATE ACTS OF COMPASSION

[By Rabbi Arthur Waskow and Rabbi Phyllis Berman*]

The American people have stood up! – against an encroaching tyranny that has been forced to take one tiny step not even back, but to one side. Even after the President claimed to change his policy, children as I write are being airplaned around the country, often with  no ID, in a way that will make it almost impossible to reunite them  with their families. The struggle for justice and compassion continues.

 We suggest these action proposals for the immediate next stage of struggle for a spiritually and ethically rooted immigration policy for the United States. And we need to look more deeply into the ethics of “immigration” around the world as it morphs into great waves of refugees desperate for safety, on the one hand, and on the other hand into tidal waves of hypernationalist fear of losing a national culture and sense of identity.

The immediate and the deeper questions are connected. The deep moral collision over ripping children out of their families has been a lightning flash in the dark, lighting up the deeper issues beneath. But like a lightning flash, it may vanish before we can attune our eyes to see the deeper truths and questions.

 We want to pursue those questions without losing sight of the most urgent needs exploding every day along the US, German, and many other borders. Reluctantly, we see the need to separate these immediate action needs from the deeper exploratory needs. Keep tuned!


1. PRAY OR MEDITATE    [ACTION]:  If you wear a Jewish tallit (prayer shawl) wrap it around yourself and say: ”May these fringes be for me always threads of connection  to all humanity and all the Earth.” With or without a tallit, choose your own psalm or whisper, “You Who are the Breathing-Spirit of all life, help me remain conscious that all those who are gathering at our national borders bear Your Image in them, on them. Help the children and the parents who gather there to be nurtured by each other’s breathing as by Your Own.”


Please sign a petition with two demands.  The text and the signatures will be sent to at least one Senator and one Member of Congress to use in debates and discussions and to place in the Congressional Record.Here is the text:

" urgently demand the immediate prohibition of all separations of families and the immediate reunification of all families already separated by ICE and the Border Patrol  in dealing with claims of asylum or efforts to immigrate, and the immediate admission to probationary asylum and welcome into our society --  NOT by new imprisonment -- of families from Central American countries that are under extreme pressure of violence, while their cases are investigated.

"We call upon White House aides John Kelly and Stephen Miller, Attorney-General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, all of whom have brought their power to bear directly on carrying out the recent cruel policy:

“Open your hearts to compassion and turn in a new direction.  Not only ripping families apart but imprisoning families for requesting asylum as they flee unbearable violence is an abomination. Announce that you will no longer carry out a policy built on burnt-out cinder blocks of cruelty. Commit yourselves o finding and reuniting with their families every child you have ripped away.  If that requires quitting, quit.

“We offer you three days’ time for repentant reversal or repentant resignation. If you then harden your hearts like Pharaoh of old, refusing to change, we will seek your immediate impeachment,  removal from office,  and prohibition on ever again holding office under the United States.”

ACTION: Please click to <>

to sign.

  1. [FURTHER ACTIONS: Call your Senator or Congressmember at 202-224-3121 and urge them also to strongly support H.R. 6135, the Keep Families Together Act, which has over 100 cosponsors in the House, while the Senate companion bill has the support of almost 50 Senators. ]

[Action: Call the White House at 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414 and ask for Mr. Kelly and Mr. Miller. Call Homeland Security at 202-282-8400 or 202-282-8495. Call the Attorney-General at 202-514-2000 or 202-353-1555.]

 [ACTION: Wait three days and call Congressperson Jerrold Nadler, 202-225-6906, ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee and of its subcommittee on the Constitution. Point person for impeachments]

###   ###   ### 


  1. Visit an ICE (Immigration and Citizenship Enforcement) office and speak with stubborn compassion and concern to ICE workers who have themselves been carrying out this policy with their own hands.

[ACTION: To find a local office of ICE near you, click to

<> and then click on your state.  Note down the local offices that pop up, choose one to visit, visit along with a friend or a crowd, give the agents gifts of child-made crayon card saying  “Kids & families belong together and free!” and start the conversation this way:] 

 “Do you have children? Grandchildren? How would you feel if you and they were living in a town where violence was totally out of control and the risk of rape or murder for you and for them was very very high?

"Would you after years of fear and struggle run away to another country? How would you feel if the choices you were given in that country were being sent to prison or back to death? How would you feel if your children had already been ripped away from you and nobody knew where they were? No contact with you, no information on what happened to them? Who is feeding the baby who was literally yanked off his or her mother’s breast, nursing? Who is changing diapers, holding them when they cry?  

 “Could you bear it if you were the target, not the enforcer? Can you bear it if you are the enforcer? What could you personally do to stop it? Could you talk with your co-workers? Could you get five or six of them, along with you, to simply stop doing it?”


2 . [ACTION: If you live near a child-detention or family-detention center, arrange with members and clergy of your congregation to visit one of them  --  e.g., in Allen, Texas. Ask to talk with the children. Insist as long and as strongly as you feel able. Choose whether to sit at the door and risk arrest if they won’t let you meet the kids. ]

3. Support the lawyers who are trying against great odds to bring the legal system to bear in protecting these families. [ACTION: Click to Central American Legal Assistance in Brooklyn , which has been doing this work since 1985 and deals with thousands of immigrants and refugees every year:  <> ]

4. Get together with your neighbors to read and discuss the article in the left-hand column of the Home Page, which looks at the more basic issues through biblical and spiritual eyes. See -- 


* Rabbi Waskow is the founder (1983) and director of The Shalom Center, a prophetic voice in the Jewish, multireligious, and American worlds. Rabbi Berman was the founder (1979) and director through 2016 of the Riverside Language Program, an intensive and innovative English-language school (six hours a day, five days a week, in multiple six-week sessions) that over the years worked with thousands of newly arrived immigrants and refugees.


Jewish and Interfaith Topics: