October 17, 2014 STATEMENT – LIRS Welcomes Letter Questioning Inhumane Family Detention

Washington, D.C., October 17, 2014 – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), the national organization established by Lutheran churches in the United States to serve uprooted people, applauds the recent letter sponsored by several United States Senators urging the Administration to reconsider the harmful and inhumane practice of detaining families for immigration purposes. The letter, addressed to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, questions the Administration’s recent decision to construct a massive new immigration detention facility in Dilley, Texas to house immigrant families comprised of women, young children and babies.  It also urges the Administration to ensure the physical safety and due process rights of these women and children seeking safety and a new life in the United States. It was signed by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Harry Reid (D-NV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Mark Udall (D-CO).

LIRS has long opposed the practice of family detention as it is inherently harmful, risks re-traumatizing extremely vulnerable survivors of torture and trafficking, prevents full and fair access to legal information and representation, lacks oversight, and is extremely costly.

“Our faith compels us to welcome the newcomer and protect the vulnerable,” said Brittney Nystrom, LIRS Director for Advocacy, “These vulnerable mothers and children who are seeking safety on our shores deserve to be embraced in our homes, communities, and congregations. Instead, we are locking up mothers, infants, toddlers and teens. Family detention undermines our values as a people of faith and a nation of welcome.  We must do better. ”

LIRS seeks to expand the use of alternatives to detention, which have been demonstrated to uphold the law while also promoting fairness, compassion and justice. LIRS is a leader in developing community-based alternatives to detention and works constructively with the government to reduce reliance on immigration detention. LIRS calls upon the Obama Administration to set aside the expensive and inhumane practice of detaining children and families in jail-like settings.

For more information on family detention and available alternatives, please see our online resources and our 2007 report, “Locking Up Family Values: The Detention of Immigrant Families.”

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Started by Lutheran congregations in 1939, LIRS walks with migrants and refugees through ministries of service and justice, transforming U.S. communities by ensuring that newcomers are not only self-sufficient but also become connected and contributing members of their adopted communities in the United States. Working with and through over 60 partners across the country, LIRS resettles refugees, reunites children with their families or provides loving homes for them, conducts policy advocacy, and pursues humanitarian alternatives to the immigration detention system. For more information, please visit www.lirs.org.

If you have any questions about this statement, please contact Brittney Nystrom, LIRS Director for Advocacy at (202) 626-7948 or bnystrom@lirs.org.