In bold and clear language, Presbyterians are calling on President Barack Obama and his administration to end raids on mothers and children from Central America, their detention, and their ultimate deportation back to life-threatening situations.
“Right now, young mothers and children are being rounded up by immigration officials in cities across the country,” the Reverend Alison Harrington, pastor of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona, said via the online faith-based justice community Groundswell.
“ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement ) officers show up at their doors unannounced, deceiving them to gain entry, waking up sleeping children, and taking away their families to detention centers where mothers and their children are jailed until they are deported back to the rape, murder, and domestic violence they are fleeing.”
“Tell President Obama this is a violation of human rights,” said Harrington, whose congregation has been a leader in the movement to provide sanctuary for refugees risking deportation. “Your support in this moment is critical—sign the pledge to stand with our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters.”
Immigration raids began sporadically in Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina the first weekend in January, sending fear and panic throughout many immigrant communities. The arrests center primarily on the families that crossed the border from Central America in summer 2014, sought asylum but were denied, and were waiting for the next step in the deportation process.
“This nation has made promises to the global community. We have promised to not penalize those who come here without immigration status if they come seeking protection. We have promised to not return asylum-seekers to the countries they have fled,” said Attorney Teresa Waggener, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s manager of immigration legal issues.
“Our government has broken all of those promises in its treatment of these asylum-seeking families. We incarcerated them upon their arrival, released them only with electronic monitoring, subjected them to expedited hearings without attorneys and called it due process, and now we are raiding their homes and sending them back to the countries they risked so much to escape.”
For decades the PC(USA) has advocated for the rights of migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers through policies set by its General Assembly. The denomination even affirms “only as a last resort to practice conscientious disobedience” (Minutes, UPCUSA, 1966, Part I, p. 396).
Most recently the PC(USA) added its name to a letter to President Obama (PDF) opposing the Department of Homeland Security’s plans for raids on Central American families, and Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons today released his own letter to Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson calling for an end to the raids.
“This nation, if it is to keep its moral integrity, must end family detention, reform the asylum process to afford due process, and end the raids of the households of families who have fallen victim to a system that guaranteed their failure,” Parsons said.
For more information on the Presbyterian immigration response and ways to engage, go to www.pcusa.org/immigration.
by Toya Richards Jackson, director of communications and assistant stated clerk