JCFS Chicago Statement on Separation of Families at U.S. Border

By Howard Sitron, JCFS Chicago President and CEO and Milt Zimmerman, Chairman, JCFS Chicago Board of Directors

JCFS Chicago prides itself on its expertise providing a trauma-informed approach to care. Many who come to us have experienced trauma, a large number of them children and youth referred to our Foster Care, psychotherapy and related services. Through our work, we know all too well the severe and lasting impact of children being separated from their families, both physical and emotional. In these cases, the need for such separation has been clearly established, and we strive for reunification with their family.

With this lens through which to consider the current actions on our southern border, even the possibility that children might be separated from their parents for any reason other than a failure to properly parent is unconscionable. That our government intentionally created such trauma for what is reported to be at least 2,300 children in just the last five weeks is truly devastating. Though action has now been taken halting such separation, caveats remain, including the availability of appropriate facilities to detain the intact family and the length of such detainment.  Further, there has been no indication of planning or action intended to reunify separated children with their parents.

We at JCFS Chicago cannot overstate our absolute condemnation of this practice. We are calling for confirmation that the cessation of any further separation is in place unconditionally, and for the immediate reunification of all those children/youth who have already been separated. Further, reuniting these kids with their families in detention only changes the way they are being harmed. There are many alternatives to incarceration for these families whose only crime is seeking a better life by fleeing violence and oppression in their home countries. 

Beyond our trauma-informed perspective, JCFS Chicago also includes HIAS Immigration & Citizenship in our family of services. For over 100 years, HIAS Immigration & Citizenship has welcomed the stranger, assisting countless immigrants and refugees to establish a life in the United States. The actions taking place at our border are in direct contradiction to this value that we hold dear, that over generations has allowed all of us the benefit of living in a free society.

These current policies and actions are in direct conflict with our values, and we will seek every opportunity to advocate on behalf of a compassionate and humane immigration policy. We strongly encourage everyone of good conscience to communicate with their elected officials and governmental leaders, voicing your position on these policies. Follow this link to find contact information for your elected officials: usa.gov/elected-officials. The welfare and protection of every child regardless of circumstance is our highest priority, and we continue to seek every opportunity to act on behalf of these and all children put in harm’s way.

Attached please find a letter sent by the faith community and signed on JCFS Chicago's behalf by Rabbi David Rosenberg. This letter very clearly reflects our position and our horror at the actions leading to children being separated from their families and put at substantial risk. I want to acknowledge Rabbi Rosenberg’s leadership on this issue, and to again encourage everyone who finds this situation unacceptable to speak up and to remain vigilant.

Thank you for joining us in this effort.