U.S. Rabbis to Lead 'Pilgrimage' to Border to Protest Trump's Treatment of Migrants

Rabbis countrywide are expected to begin a "pilgrimage" to the southern border on Monday to protest the Trump administration's "unacceptable" treatment of migrants.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, Rabbi Miriam Terlinchamp of Temple Sholom in Cincinnati said that the "increased militarization of our borders and zero-tolerance policies" have created the conditions for a "humanitarian disaster affecting immigrants and asylum seekers."

"These policies violate every principle of decency, justice and compassion that we hold as Jews," Terlinchamp said. "We are making this sacred journey to call on our government to stop the unacceptable practice of imprisoning immigrant minors, and ensure protection for those seeking refuge within our borders."

Reform Rabbi Josh Whinston of Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor is helping lead a pilgrimage of rabbis to the southern border in protest of the Trump administration's treatment of migrants. Philip Deitch

Dubbed the "Let Our Families Go" pilgrimage, the journey is expected to see rabbis travel in three groups, departing from starting points in Cleveland, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Sacramento, California, on Monday.

The rabbis plan to stop in Indianapolis and St. Louis for rallies before converging in El Paso, Texas, on November 15.

The group is then expected to participate in an "action of prophetic witness that will call attention to the injustices taking place on the border," before traveling to Tornillo, Texas, in a demonstration of "solidarity" between the Jewish community and immigrants "suffering these outrages" brought on by government policy.

Specifically, rabbis plan to protest three ongoing crises near the border. In a press release sent to Newsweek, the group said those crises included: The Trump administration's ongoing detention of migrant children at a "tent city" site in Tornillo; immigration officials' decision to release migrants in El Paso from detention with "no access to support or resources"; and U.S. immigration officials' slow processing of asylum seekers, with dozens of undocumented migrants recently being forced to camp on the Paso Del Norte international bridge as they waited to enter the U.S.

Calling for the end to detention of undocumented minors, Rabbi Josh Whinston of Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor said in a statement sent to Newsweek: "We, as people of faith, stand for the reunification of children with parents or guardians regardless of immigration status.

"The time has [come] to bring an end to the outrageous practices that keep asylum seekers and immigrant teens mired in desperate poverty or locked in prison camps. This pilgrimage is a fulfillment of our obligation as religious leaders to support the most vulnerable among us, and an acknowledgement of the immigrant identity embedded in our own Jewish heritage."

Plans for the pilgrimage south came as thousands of Central American migrants made their way north toward the U.S.-Mexico border, with many hoping to claim asylum in the U.S.

Read more: LGBT migrants leave caravan over 'discrimination,' reach California border

President Donald Trump has railed against the caravans, with his administration announcing a new rule barring migrants who tried to enter the U.S. illegally from claiming asylum.

About 80 of the thousands of migrants heading towards the U.S. border recently made it to Tijuana, Mexico, which borders San Diego.

In anticipation of the caravan arrivals, the Trump administration deployed up to 7,000 troops, which are expected to be stationed along the southern border. Trump has said that the number could increase to 15,000.

In a statement, Rabbi Ben Zeidman of Temple Mount Sinai in El Paso said rabbis were compelled to come to migrants' aid as "every day we see in our community the painful suffering of immigrant families and asylum seekers, who want nothing more than the chance for a safe and dignified future."

This article has been updated with a photo of Rabbi Josh Whinston of Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor.