#notwithoutmychild, and not without theirs either 

#notwithoutmychild, and not without theirs either 

I don’t usually feel claustrophobic, but I did in that tiny room with glass walls, putting us all on display. We were at the San Francisco airport, entering the United States. For me and my husband, it was a simple re-entry with our American passports as citizens born on this soil. For our child, newly adopted and discharged from the hospital in Taiwan to us and would be seeing her medical team in Raleigh as soon as we landed there, it was the first time here. 

Her passport was green, with "Republic of China Taiwan Passport" embossed in English and Mandarin Chinese on the cover. Her immigration paperwork was in a sealed manila envelope, handed to us at the American Institute in Taiwan (the embassy-like entity there) with strict instructions not to open or tamper with it. This was the office – the crowded, hot, loud, far too small office – in which we were told to hand over this crucial envelope. “Put it there,” an immigration officer said, gesturing to a mail organizer on the counter without making eye contact. We stuck the papers we had guarded carefully into slot 17. Then we waited.

I knew everything was in order, but the room was electrically charged with uncertainty. I knew we had the right paperwork. I knew our status as Americans and her status with an orphan visa would make US entry almost certain. I knew our white skin would help too, in this room full of brown and black people, of languages I could identify and some I couldn’t, of hope dressed in cultural garb from different countries. My yoga pants felt conspicuously casual.

We were all conspicuous, though. The glass wall meant every person going through the immigration line could see us. We were the ones who didn’t get an automatic pass. We were crammed in a space designed for containment not comfort, designed for exposure not privacy. 

Everyone was kind in that room, though, except for the immigration officials who looked at papers and mostly looked away from people. When our daughter began crying as we fed her, a necessary task that also caused her pain at that time, a man in uniform looked up. He saw our white skin and American attire. What’s your number? he asked. 17, we answered, and he grabbed our envelope out of order. We were moved to the front of the line. With a cursory glance at her documents, he stamped Zoe Amanda’s passport and smiled. “Welcome to America,” he said, making eye contact the whole time.

I still wonder about and pray for the others we left in that glass-walled room. We didn’t have to demand #notwithoutmychild. Neither did they, probably, as this was 2012, not 2018.


Today, in 2018, loving caregivers like us are experiencing a different outcome as they seek to enter our country. Seeking asylum, they cross at the border as a family. But our president, representing the political party that has long presented itself as pro-family, has put in place a policy to traumatize children and their caregivers as a way of deterring immigrants from trying to come here. Cries of #notwithoutmychild are met with apathy, as children are torn from their parents.

Imagine speeding as you drive your child to the emergency room, getting pulled over, and being detained, as your child is separated from you. Then imagine not knowing if your child got the care she needed, not knowing where she is, and not knowing if you’ll ever see her again. Imagine being that child, torn from your mother, in a new place with new customs and new language and new food and new smells and new everything. You, too, don’t know if your mom is okay, where she is, or if you’ll ever see her again. 

This parable is playing out on our border right now. Already, more than 700 children – including 100 under the age of 1 – have been separated from their refuge-seeking parents since October. One was the 18-month-old son of Mirian. She arrived, child in arms, a normal act of parenting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions described last month as “smuggling.” Mirian explained that they had escaped through tear gas in Honduras and were seeking refuge in the US from political violence. Instead, she faced more political violence, as she was forced to put her son in a car seat in the back of a government vehicle, tearfully being torn apart. She wasn’t even breaking the law by speeding, like in my parable. No, she was legally seeking refuge for herself and her son.

I research and speak nationally about childhood trauma. Federal law requires that immigration decisions be made in the best interests of the child, if a child is involved. Tearing apart families is completely contrary to that long-practiced policy. This administration is creating trauma for already traumatized children. Current research – including research conducted by our government – identifies foster care as a traumatic experience, even in the best of cases, yet White House Chief of Staff John Kelly flippantly said in an interview with NPR, “the children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever.”

This new family separation policy violates both the laws of our country and the laws of humanity. As Christian women signing the #notwithoutmychild declaration, we’re also declaring that this policy violates God’s policy set for us in scripture. This is not what it looks like to welcome the sojourner. This is not what it looks like to value God’s design for family. 

From the protection of Moses by the midwives Shiphrah and Puah and by his mother Jochabed in defiance to Pharaoh’s politics in Exodus 2 to the protection of baby Jesus by the magi and by Mary in defiance to Herod’s politics in Matthew 1, our faith offers a history of faithfulness to God’s commands over the government’s rule of law. As Christian women who care about children, we follow in this tradition. We join Shiphrah, Puah, Jochabed, the magi, and Mary. We declare #notwithoutmychild as we also declare that no woman should be without her child for the simple act of trying to come to America. 


This week, you’ll see many Christian women posting pictures and stories with the hashtag #notwithoutmychild. We invite you to join us. We believe #familiesbelongtogether. This heinous act of separating families at the border must stop. No more. Not on our watch.

Standing as One

Standing as One

Why Rise Matters to Me

Why Rise Matters to Me