To: President Barack Obama CC: The Honorable Jeh Johnson, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security
We, the undersigned faith leaders, write to you with grave concern about the practice of family detention in the United States. We oppose family detention on the grounds that it is immoral, inhumane, and unnecessary. We call upon the Administration to immediately halt the practice of family detention and employ alternatives that allow children freedom and dignity while they await due process.
We are appalled that the facilities in which refugee women and children are held are for-profit corporations that benefit economically from the plight of vulnerable families, many of whom have been extorted and exploited in numerous ways before they arrive at our borders. Most of the women and children in family detention centers are fleeing political and economic violence in their home countries and qualify for asylum and other protections under US law.
As people of faith, we believe that it is immoral to detain children on the basis of their parents’ immigration status. We agree with the judgement of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child which declared in 2012: "Children should not be criminalized or subject to punitive measures because of their or their parents’ migration status. The detention of a child because of their parent’s migration status constitutes a child rights violation and always contravenes the principle of the best interests of the child."
Family detention is not only a violation of international standards, it is a violation of our own commitment as a country to offer protection and refuge to women, men, and children. Instead of locking up children in unlicensed, for-profit facilities, ICE can and and should use alternative community support and case management programs that help families receive the legal support they require as they await the resolution of their asylum cases. Many of our faith-based organizations are willing and able to support these efforts.
We are also deeply concerned about a rush to deport women and children without adequate legal counsel, which has already resulted in the deaths of young people on their return. Given the gravity of the crisis in Central America and the particular risk to youth, your Administration should explore offering Temporary Protected Status to those fleeing violence in the region.
President Obama as a person of faith and a father, we know that you believe, as we do, that these families are created in the image of God and should not be treated as criminals. Large scale family detention was ended in 2009 after a prolonged campaign involving a lawsuit and human rights investigations. We urge you to use your executive power to put an end to family detention once again and help protect vulnerable and innocent children who are detained in for-profit prisons.
We appreciate your consideration of this urgent matter as we pray for a swift and decisive end to the practice of family detention.
Sincerely, [Institutional Affiliations for identification only]
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