June 30, 2014 STATEMENT — LIRS Condemns Administration’s Plans to Expedite Deportations for UACs and Increase Detention of Families

Press Contact: Miji Bell
mbell@lirs.org, 410-230-2841

WASHINGTON, DC   — Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service strongly denounces the Obama Administration’s reported plans to expand the detention of families with children and to expedite deportations for thousands of unaccompanied migrant children and return them to their home countries without full due process protections. To do so places at peril the very families and children who have already risked their lives to find refuge in the United States from violence, hunger and oppression. Reducing legal and humanitarian protections for unaccompanied children and families is in direct contradiction to our responsibility and global leadership for protecting the most vulnerable by denying refugee and trafficked children fair and meaningful access to protection.

“Today we stand by American and faith-based values of welcome, freedom, safety, and due process for all, including children seeking refuge here as they flee Central America.  We cannot accept any response by the Administration or Congress that seeks to detain families with children or to forcibly and indiscriminately return refugees, many of whom are children who have made perilous and courageous journeys, back into a maelstrom of conflict and criminal violence,” says Linda Hartke, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “The United States urges and expects countries throughout the world to host hundreds of thousands, and in some cases millions of refugees, on their land. Yet when this great nation is faced with a refugee crisis on its own border, we renege on our moral and legal obligations to protect those fleeing for their lives?”

The number of unaccompanied children and families arriving in the United States should not be the deciding factor in reducing the rights or process they are due. To compromise our values and risk the lives of families and children in an effort to deport more individuals is inconsistent with American values and is in opposition to international law.  Efforts that respect the dignity and rights of families and children and increases the protection they receive, whether in their home countries or the countries to which they flee, would be a more humane and just approach.

As a faith based organization, we are called to “love the stranger” and “welcome the stranger”. We urgently appeal to all people of faith, to our leaders in Congress, and to President Obama to respond to this refugee crisis with mercy, compassion, love and hospitality.

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Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is the second largest refugee resettlement agency in the United States. It is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating with 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. Celebrating 75 years of service and advocacy this year, LIRS has helped more than 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.