— USCCB Live (@USCCBLive) March 27, 2015
I toured the Dilley, Texas family detention facility last Friday with several Lutheran and Catholic bishops and other faith leaders. Together, we visited with young mothers and children who fled violence in Central America and have been incarcerated upon their arrival to the United States. After our tour, we held a press conference where we shared our reflections from the experience.
“If there was a theme to what I saw today it was tears, tears, tears. The people I spoke with had many tears,” said Bishop Michael Rinehart of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
“If this is to send a message to other countries, I’m not certain that it’s effective for that purpose because we have people still coming,” said Bishop Julian Gordy of the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA. “I know it has been really effective to a distressing degree in separating families.”
These leaders, along with almost 80 other Lutheran bishops and district presidents, Catholic bishops, Jewish rabbis, and prominent leaders from other Christian denominations, signed a letter to President Obama calling for an end to the inhumane practice of family detention. They wrote:
The Bible is very clear—we are called to welcome the stranger. We ask you to consider whether you are prepared for your legacy to include the purposeful detention of innocent mothers and babies in furthering an ineffective policy of deterrence that violates fundamental tenants of our faiths and the American ideal of providing freedom and refuge to the persecuted. The incarceration of vulnerable mothers and children fleeing violence in their home countries is a stain on the record of this Administration. We urge you to reverse course on this policy and implement alternatives for all families.
Last year, more than 68,000 families from Central America fled violence in their home countries. Many of these families suffered trauma and abuse but have been detained in order to deter further migration. Detention risks re-traumatizing vulnerable individuals, especially survivors of torture, trafficking or abuse, and prevents full and fair access to medical treatment, legal information and representation. Successful and humane alternatives are available and it has been demonstrated that case management and community support are an effective way to ensure that people continue with their immigration legal proceedings.
LIRS has long called for an end to the inhumane practice of family detention and the expansion of alternative to detention programs, like LIRS’s own Community Support Network. Please join us in urging your elected officials to oppose this harmful practice through LIRS’s Action Center. Thank you for standing with these faith leaders, LIRS and all vulnerable mothers and children seeking protection.