Priest says 'zero tolerance' policy is evil

Priest says 'zero tolerance' policy is evil

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

The debate over immigration and separating families has spread to Sunday services as faith leaders begin to take sides.

Parishioners this past Sunday at Our Lady of Guadalupe heard a message from Father Martin Pina that some may consider political. 

"What is our responsibility when we see injustices?" Pina asked. "Even when it means trying to stand up against what we call the government." 

Pina said his message is about holding the government and nation to a higher moral standard. 

"According to our Christian values, Jesus says to take care of the widows and oppressed," Pina said. "That doesn't mean that we break the laws, but we care for those who are the least among our society." 

Pina knows first hand what it is like to cross the border illegally. In 1972, at just 7-years-old, his family attempted to enter the U.S. They were caught. His 17-year-old brother and father were taken to prison but the remainder of the family stayed together in a hotel. 

The next day, his family was taken back to the border and sent home. Pina described it as a terrifying experience, but it could have been worse. 

"It's very vivid in my memory, I remember the room, I remember the hotel, I remember how I looked, so it's a lasting memory," Pina said. "Did it cause damage? Well it was only one night, but we were with a person that we knew was our mom.

"Now could you imagine a little child that is taken away. Sometimes taken clear across the country to be in another camp, alone with no parents." 

Pina gained citizenship in 1989 when Ronald Reagan signed an immigration bill, allowing amnesty. While he understands the need for immigration reform he said it should not be at the expense of the children. 

"There's no harm in us leaving them together," Pina said. "This policy that says if we separate them, they will no longer come here is misguided and evil. It does not really produce nothing good, nor it identifies us as a good and compassionate country as we use to be." 

The house plans to debate two bills related to immigration put together by House Speaker Paul Ryan, but neither address family separation. 

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