Saturday, March 28, 2015

Catholic, ELCA Bishops Visit Immigrant Detention Center, Issue Joint Call for More Humane Treatement of Detained Minors

Justice Prayer for Immigrants
In a strong spirit of  ecumenical solidarity, three Roman Catholic bishops joined with two of their counterparts from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to urge U.S. immigration authorities for a more humane treatment for detained minors who fled poverty and violence in.Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and other Central American countries.

Refugees from violence in Central America have been held under inhumane conditions at detention centers in New Mexico, Texas, and Pennsylvania.  Last summer, Pope Francis urged U.S. authorities to welcome and protect these refugee minors.

In March of 2015, Roman Catholic Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller (San Antonio, Texas)  Bishop Eusebio Elizondo (auxiliary, Archdiocese of  Seattle), Bishop James Tamayo (Diocese of  Laredo, Texas) and Lutheran Bishops Michael Rinehart (Gulf Coast Synod) H. Julian Gordy (Southeastern Synod) visited with young mothers who are now incarcerated at Dilley Detention Center in Dilley, Texas. 

Bishop Gordy is chair of the ELCA Conference of Bishops' Immigration Ready Bench and Bishop Rinehart is a member of the board of directors for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.  A "ready bench" is a unit within the ELCA Conference of  Bishops that allows each leader to focus on a specific issue. Whether working on issues like immigration or international relations, these “benches” are dedicated to be “ready” when called upon to speak and/or advocate in their particular area of concentration.

A 'shameful policy'
Following are comments that Bishops García-Siller, Elizondo and Tamayo after  the visit to the detention center in Dilley.

“After this visit, my primary question is: Why? Why do we feel compelled to place in detention such vulnerable individuals –traumatized young mothers with children fleeing persecution in their home countries?”said Archbishop García-Siller following the visit. “A great nation such as ours need not incarcerate the most vulnerable in the name of deterrence. The moral character of a society is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable in our midst. Our nation’s family detention policy is shameful and I implore our elected officials to end it." 

Bishop Elizondo, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, added: “The detention of families serves no purpose and undermines due process. It especially harms children, who experience emotional and psychological harm from detention. The policy is a stain on the administration’s record on immigration.

Bishop Tamayo said humane alternatives to detention exist and should be used for the population. "The government should consider placing these families in humane alternatives to detention, where they could live in the community and access needed services, including legal representation,” Bishop Tamayo said. “The Church is ready to assist in this effort.”

And here is a recent article about the work of the ELCA Ready Bench on Immigration."The ready bench is hoping to draw attention to the unfortunate incarceration of migrant women and children in detention facilities across the country," said  Bishop Gordy. See full article, which was published a week before the visit of the five bishops to the detention center in Dilley, Texas.

See the ELCA Bishops' Statement on Immigration.

Here is the USCCB tatement on Justice for Immigrants
and the Justice Prayer for Immigrants

Leaders from other denominations have also stepped forward to speak on behalf of immigrant minors. See this video  from Church World Service.

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