There is no more poignant passage in the Torah than the description of Jacob’s grief when his son Joseph disappears. He is quite literally inconsolable. In Jacob’s case a full 22 years elapse before he is reunited with Joseph, and God willing nothing like that will happen now.
But still, any of us who are parents know the anguish a separation from our children causes – for us and for our children. This cannot be a policy, official or unofficial, of the United States.
I recognize that there is no good solution, and I am using the word good in both senses, fully moral and fully workable. The following strikes me as the best possibility, or the least worst, among the current alternatives. For there is never a reason to establish a policy to keep families separate.
If a family comes here without authorization, they should be kept together, and if claims of asylum are rejected they should be sent back together.
Accompanying this policy, Congress and the president must work together to greatly expedite the asylum process (through modifying the Flores Consent Decree
or through other appropriate legislation) so that parents and children can remain together, as their immigration status is determined.
All of us can imagine that if we could be present when these parents and their children are reunited, we would be moved to tears. Just hold that vision in your mind for a minute. And those tears would emanate out of – as Lincoln so beautifully expressed it – “the better angels of our nature.”
That is what we have to remain in touch with, the better angels of our nature.
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin is an American rabbi, lecturer, and bestselling author of more than 15 books, including Jewish Literacy, Rebbe, and the forthcoming, Words that Hurt, Words that Heal: How the Words We Choose Shape Our Destiny.