Interfaith clergy stage vigil at Kansas Statehouse to oppose immigration policy
photo by: Peter Hancock
TOPEKA — A group of clergy leaders from Jewish, Muslim and a variety of Christian faiths gathered at the Statehouse Monday to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and to show support for children who have been separated from their parents after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, including some who are being housed at a youth residential center in Topeka.
“We’re clergy gathered here together to witness and to pray,” Rabbi Moti Rieber, of the group Kansas Interfaith Action, said during the vigil.
The policy of separating children from their parents was part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on immigration that went into effect earlier this year. It was later reversed in the face of widespread public outcry.
It has been estimated that as many as 2,300 children detained at the border were separated from their parents, but a federal judge recently ordered the administration to reunite those families within 30 days.
At least 10 of those children were being housed at The Villages, a residential youth center in Topeka, along with a number of other undocumented immigrants who were classified as “unaccompanied minors.”
Former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom and House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, were part of a group of Democrats who visited the facility last week to speak with administrators and check on the well-being of the children.
As of Wednesday, June 27, Ward said in a news release, all but three of those children had been reunited with their parents. In an interview Monday, Ward said he did not know the status of the remaining three, but he said he expects to receive more information later this week.
Meanwhile, the outrage within a number of faith communities in Kansas continues to grow.
“Here’s what I said to my congregation (Sunday),” said Peter Luckey, senior pastor at Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence. “I said, no matter how you look at this situation of parents being separated from their children, you can’t put lipstick on this. It is ugly. And it is by any stretch of the imagination, any culture, any ethnic (group) of any faith, this is evil.”
Mohamed Odah, of the Olathe-based Islamic Center of Kansas, said his community would be willing to house and support those children at their own expense until they are reunited with their parents.
“And the government doesn’t have to pay anything,” he said.
“We will pay for them. We will even pay for their transportation to bring them from this detention center to our homes.”