The Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border has generated criticism and condemnation.
The so-called "zero tolerance" policy resulted in the separation of 1,995 children from their families during the six-week period between April 16 and May 31. That number is now estimated to be well over 2,000 children.
This weekend, current first lady Melania Trump as well as all living former first ladies — both Republican and Democrat — spoke out against the policy.
Christian leaders across denominations have also publicly condemned the measure.
Last week, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement.
“While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety,” the statement read. “Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”
Reverend Allen Vigneron is the archbishop of Detroit, the spiritual leader of more than 1.5 million Catholics in Southeast Michigan. He spoke with Stateside about his views on the policy of separating families and the welfare of migrant children.
The archbishop echoed statements from other Catholic leaders that separating children from families is highly immoral because of the damage it causes to young children.
“Imagine the fear that they have being taken from their parents,” he said. "This is a great injury to them here at a vulnerable time in their life.”
While many religious leaders have criticized the policy, those within the Trump administration have pointed to verses in the Bible to defend strict border control, most notably the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In response, some have pointed out this same scripture was also used to defend slavery.
The archbishop said he and all Catholic bishops recognize that the government has the authority to secure national borders.
“I’m not a political leader. This isn’t the job God gave me to do,” he said. “I’m a pastoral leader, and my job is to articulate solid moral wisdom in these matters. I know that we need to accomplish both the security of our borders, maintaining the rule of law, and at the same time treat people with respect and protect families.”
The archbishop said political leaders should be putting families first in public policy, and keeping migrant children with their parents would be "faithful to our tradition of treating people with dignity."
"Even people who have broken the law deserve to be treated with dignity," he added.
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Sophie Sherry.