Bringing Basic Goodness to the Border

As a Shambhala community, we are watching with a sense of horror and despair as the government of the United States implements its policy of separating children from their parents at the Mexican border. As an international Buddhist community, Shambhala condemns this inhumane and brutal policy. We also recognize and condemn violence toward refugees in any part of the world.

In April of 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions began implementing the United States “zero-tolerance” policy on immigration. Under this policy the Department of Homeland Security can refer any adult “believed to have committed any crime, including illegal entry” to the Justice Department for prosecution. Illegal entry is considered a misdemeanor and in the new policy people can be deported for misdemeanors alone. When adults are apprehended for prosecution, they are separated from their children. The children are placed in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Department of Health and Human Services. They spend an average of 51 days in a shelter while they await placement with a sponsor in the United States. On 6/20/18 this policy was banned by executive order. We are glad that the president of the United States has made this new executive decision, but recognize that more than 2,300 children have already been separated from families, with no plans for reuniting them. The new executive order now allows children to stay with their families; however, this means children will also be placed in jail cells, and in some cases indefinitely.

As Shambhalians, we want to ensure that such inhumane practices never occur in our country or in the world. We do not support the incarceration of entire families.

We have seen images of children living in cages on United States soil. We have heard their cries. We have read some of their stories. Many of the people being incarcerated at the border are fleeing trauma of gang violence, domestic violence, and government-supported violence in their home countries. They fled to the United States seeking respite and relief. Instead they have been further traumatized. It is with great sadness, anger, shame, a sense of helplessness, and a great desire to improve this situation that we write.

As Buddhists, and Shambhalians in particular, we see the fundamental goodness in every human being. We see the good in our society. Each parent and child at the border suffering at the hands of the United States government right now has the same worthiness and humanity as each American citizen. The officials detaining them have the same worthiness and humanity. Those in power ordering the detentions also possess this worthiness and humanity. We all do.

We call on our Shambhala community to remember our own fundamental goodness, worthiness, and humanness at this time. We commit to seeing that goodness in others. All others. Those detained and those ordering the detentions. We also ask our neighbors, friends, families, colleagues, and members of our local communities to consider the humanity of those at the border as well as that of our leaders. Lastly, we implore the United States government to consider the humanity of the parents and children at the border. We long for policies that celebrate and protect the basic goodness of all beings. We are relieved that this policy of separating families has been reversed, but still condemn jailing children with families.  Further, we encourage you to seek more compassionate immigration policies going forward.

Two organizations we recommend connecting with for further action are the ACLU and the Florence Project.
Shambhala has created a petition for anyone to sign.  If you would like to sign the petition, click here.

With great sadness,
The Kalapa Council and Shambhala Office of Social Engagement (SOSE)

Aarti Tejuja, Executive Director, Shambhala Office of Social Engagement
Joshua Silberstein, Chair of the Kalapa Council
Acharya Adam Lobel, Kalapa Council and SOSE Council
Jane Arthur, Kalapa Council and SOSE Council
Wendy Friedman, Kalapa Council and SOSE Council
David Brown, Kalapa Council
Acharya Mitchell Levy, Kalapa Council
Jesse Grimes, Kalapa Council
Robert Reichner, Kalapa Council
Christoph Schönherr, Kalapa Council
Acharya Charlene Leung, Diversity Working Group Chair, SOSE Council
Danielle Loeb, SOSE

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