Willie Nelson has issued a statement on the separation of immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. The country-music icon and Texas native ripped the Department of Justice’s policy under President Trump, calling it “outrageous.”
“What’s going on at our southern border is outrageous. Christians everywhere should be up in arms. What happened to ‘Bring us your tired and weak and we will make them strong?’ This is still the promise land,” Nelson says, citing lyrics from songwriter David Lynn Jones’ “Living in the Promiseland,” which Nelson cut for his 1986 album The Promiseland.
Nelson, who grew up about five hours from the Mexican border in Abbott, Texas, has never been shy about championing social causes. In 2013, he expressed his support for gay marriage, telling Texas Monthly, “It’s ridiculous to me that this is something we’re having a conversation about in this day and age.” An outspoken proponent for environmental awareness and the legalization of marjiuana, he launched his own “green fuel” company BioWillie in 2007, and in 2015 started his Willie’s Reserve cannabis company.
The issue of immigrant children crossing the Mexico-Texas border is not a new concern of Nelson’s. In 2014, he talked to Rolling Stone about the issue. “I’ve been watching, and the only thing we can do is take care of those kids, whatever it takes. They’re scared. They’re being mistreated. And it’s not a good way to start off your life. But it’s a good opportunity for us to show a little bit of humanitarianism and take care of those kids. I know a lot of people want to send them back. I guess the closer you are to the situation, the more extreme emotions you have about it, but it seems to me the old golden rule, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ or ‘treat other people like you want to be treated’ … Treat those kids like they were your kids.”
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In May, the Trump administration instituted a zero-tolerance policy that called for all immigrants crossing the border illegally to be prosecuted. Because minors cannot be held in criminal custody, close to 500 children have been separated from their parents since the policy was enacted. On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the separation of children from their parents while addressing law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Tonight, the organization Families Belong Together will hold a series of rallies to protest the policy in cities around the U.S., including Nelson’s part-time home of Austin, Texas.