We invite clergy throughout the state to sign on to this public letter, which we will publish online and send to prison staff on Thursday.
**** DEADLINE for signatures: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20th at 7:00PM ****
June 18, 2018
Mr. Richard Ives, Warden
Chaplain SuhReligious Services Department
FCI SheridanFederal Correctional InstitutionP.O. Box 8000Sheridan, Or 97378
Dear Mr. Ives and Chaplain Suh,
When subjected to family separation, fear, torture, language barriers, and the associated traumas of seeking asylum, a fundamental need and human right is for people to have access to religious counsel. As members of the clergy in the State of Oregon, we look forward to providing pastoral support to the immigrants detained at Sheridan and ask your assistance in facilitating clergy access during these difficult times.
We are aware that in early June 2018, in an unprecedented move by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of Justice, 123 men who are immigrants and may be seeking asylum were detained at the Sheridan Federal Correctional Institution.
Most of these men have endured a dangerous and hard journey to the border where they were detained. Many experienced the severe trauma of being separated from their children or other family members as part of the present Administration’s morally reprehensible “zero-tolerance” policy change, and they do not know what has happened to their loved ones. Now they reside in a rural prison, further isolated from outside connection.
We know that dehumanizing experiences such as these are detrimental to one’s spiritual, psychological, and physical health. Recently a man from Honduras committed suicide in a detention facility following a terrifying incident in which his child was taken from him. Most of the men are not fluent in English and cannot understand the process that is happening around them. They exist in chronic fear.
While spiritual care is part of the important ministry of the Religious Services Department, there is no doubt that the unique needs of the immigrants and asylum seekers currently detained in Sheridan invite the contributions of a broad base of clergy—many who have deep and important experience in pastoral care of immigrant and refugee communities. Community clergy near immigration detention centers and county jails where immigrants have been detained have been able to provide funds for phone calls, attempt to contact family members on the outside, arrange for visitations, and to obtain culturally and linguistically appropriate sacred texts and books.
We the undersigned, who are part of many communities of faith throughout the state, strongly urge you to provide access to clergy visitation, advise these men that clergy visits are available to them, and make clear the process by which we can provide clergy support to these men.