The Obama Administration has recently expanded the use of inhumane family immigration detention. LIRS had first reported on trauma caused by family detention in 2007. We recently released a report on the renewed practice of detention, Locking Up Family Values, Again, and found that the same abuses exist. 98% of the families detained under the Obama Administration are seeking protection from violence, and the average age of children in detention facilities is only six years old.
As the holiday season comes upon us, families in detention need support more than ever. To show families hope, LIRS is launching a Hope for the Holidays campaign, encouraging supporters to send new, used, or recycled holidays cards to detained migrants.
As the campaign gets off the ground, I’m delighted to share the perspectives of Pastor Paul Bailie of Iglesia Luterana San Lucas in Eagle Pass, Texas. Pastor Bailie writes:
I feel so helpless when I think about families and children being detained in the immigration detention system. Even though I serve very near the Mexican border, we are a long way from a detention center. I long for ways to do something and connect. That’s why I was very enthused to find out about Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service’s Hope for the Holidays program. The goal is to distribute over 1,700 holiday cards to women and children held in immigration detention.
When I mentioned this idea to some San Lucas parishioners, the response wasn’t as energetically positive as I expected. “A Christmas card isn’t going to make that much difference to someone locked up. What we really need to do is to write letters to Congress to change the immigration laws.” I actually agree. This could be a great stepping stone toward a ministry of advocacy. LIRS has tools to help us with that, as well (http://lirs.org/lirs-congressional-advocacy-guide-2014/).
I totally get that writing a Christmas card isn’t going to change the world. What this campaign really does is get us in congregations thinking about what is happening with these families—our neighbors. It’s raising awareness for us. If it does also give someone in detention a word of hope, that’s great, too. I am very glad LIRS is encouraging this. I really want San Lucas to participate because we have so many parishioners with recent firsthand experience as immigrants that there is quite a bit of prayerful wisdom and compassionate greeting in our people. Our native Spanish speakers provide a unique perspective. There is so much to share.
The LIRS website has a few holiday greetings in Spanish. Here is a list of some more sentences and paragraphs that could be helpful. I’m going to print these out for when we make cards during one of our inter-generational learning times. My hope is that this list can be move beyond trite platitudes and theological niceties and provide words of comfort and healing for people in horrible situations.