DECEMBER 16, 2013 STATEMENT– LIRS Welcomes Senate Introduction of the Humane Short Term Custody Act

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), the national organization established by Lutheran churches in the United States to serve uprooted people, welcomes Senator Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) introduction of S. 1817, the Humane Short Term Custody Act to better protect migrants and refugees in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS),Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The language of this bill is also found in Rep. Roybal-Allard’s (D-CA) Protect Family Values at the Border Act, which LIRS also supports.

This bill moves the U.S. government closer to treating all newcomers who arrive on our shores safely and fairly, including torture survivors and persecuted men, women, and children who arrive in the United States seeking protection and a chance at a new life. Children who migrate alone are particularly vulnerable. Many embark on a dangerous journey from their home countries to escape persecution or other violence, or to reunite with family already in the United States – often enduring trafficking or abuse during their journey. Children who are not traveling with parents or legal guardians are often held in CBP custody until they are transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement under the Department of Health and Human Services.

Currently, conditions in CBP detention facilities are often described by the men, women, and children who are held there as freezing cold, lacking any privacy, and ill-equipped to adequately care for individuals of all ages with a range of acute medical, nutritional, legal, and other needs.

The Humane Short Term Custody Act would require DHS to establish standards to ensure all individuals in CBP custody receive basic humane treatment such as the provision of food, emergency medical care, translated legal documents, timely transfers and access to facilities by non-governmental organizations. CBP detention facilities would also be subject to regular inspection for compliance with these standards.

“The Humane Short Term Custody Act represents the kind of reforms the United States needs to protect vulnerable populations, including children, in our immigration policies and ensure all migrants are treated with dignity and safety,” said LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke. “As 2013 concludes, we remain committed to working with Congress and the Administration and our broad network of social ministry organizations, churches and church leaders to advance fair and humane immigration reform.”

LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and for providing services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States. For more information, please visit www.lirs.org.

If you have any questions about this statement, please feel free to contact Brittney Nystrom, LIRS Director for Advocacy at (202) 626-7943 or via email at bnystrom@lirs.org.