Protesters in San Francisco denounce the practice of holding immigrant children and families in detention. (Théophile Larcher/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

The suffering of migrant children and families in detention demands action

The abuse occurring at our border shames our nation in the eyes of the world and God

By Ellen Clark-King

Like most people in this city and across the country, I have been reading with continuing, ever- increasing dismay the news of the government’s actions at the borders. Last week’s policy announcement allowing indefinite detention of migrant families and children is yet another tragic development. The distressing images of children huddled in cages; of pre-teen children, themselves frightened and afraid, caring for young infants; of heartbroken parents crying for their daughters and sons – these are lodged in my heart as in the hearts of so many.

As a priest, as for teachers, medical professionals, social workers, first responders and numerous other professionals, I am a mandated reporter of child abuse. The California Department of Education states: “All persons who are mandated reporters are required, by law, to report all known or suspected cases of child abuse or neglect.”

It is against the law for me and other mandated reporters to NOT report any case of child abuse that we suspect is happening. If this is true of what we suspect in family homes, how much more it must be true of the abuse we see happening on such a brutal scale at our borders!

Over 2,000 Episcopal clergy and other mandated reporters from across the country agree and they’ve signed the following letter that Grace Cathedral has posted online and sent to President Donald Trump, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Representative Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez, California District Attorney Xavier Becerra and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón:

The horrific spectacle of children being separated from their parents, detained, and held in deplorable conditions is shaming our nation in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of God. This has to stop.

We the undersigned are mandated reporters, including many clergy in The Episcopal Church. As such we are mandated reporters of child abuse, legally required to report such behavior to the relevant authorities. We would therefore be remiss in our civil as well as our religious duty if we did not draw your attention to this unlawful neglect and abuse of minors in the detention centers on our southern border.

Our humanity is outraged at this treatment carried out by our own country. Let us know what steps you will be taking as a public servant to rectify this immoral state of affairs.

We have not yet seen any action. We have not yet seen any suggestion of change for the better. But we will not stop crying out against this national shame. We will not stop being a voice for these families. We will not stop calling out our government for the neglect and abuse of these innocent children. Please consider signing the letter if you are a mandated reporter or sharing it with people in your network who are, and in this way join us in saying: Come on, America, we are better than this!

You can find the letter and sign it or share it at

The Rev. Canon Dr. Ellen Clark-King is the Executive Pastor and Canon for Social Justice at Grace Catheral. She was one of the first women ordained as n Episcopal priest in the UK and she holds a Ph.D. in theology and spirituality from Lancaster University.

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