March 27, 2015 PRESS RELEASE — LIRS CEO and Faith Leaders Visit Immigrant Families at Dilley Detention Center, Call for End to Family Detention

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Miji Bell
mbell@lirs.org, (410) 230-2841

BALTIMORE, MD – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) President and CEO Linda Hartke and Lutheran and Catholic bishops toured the Dilley Family Detention Center today. The faith leaders visited with young mothers and children who fled violence in Central America and are now incarcerated. The leaders called on the government to end the inhumane practice of family detention.

Last year, more than 68,000 families from Central America fled violence in their home countries. Many of these families suffered trauma and abuse but have been detained in order to deter further migration. Detention can be retraumatizing and does not support their need for recovery or healing. Successful and humane alternatives are available and it has been demonstrated that case management and community support are an effective way to ensure that people continue with their immigration legal proceedings.

LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke described the tour of the facility as “shocking and heartbreaking.” She said, “Hundreds of Central American immigrant mothers and children who fled their homelands for their lives are now locked up. But children, many of whom are babies and toddlers, do not belong in jails – nor do their mothers who have acted only to protect their very lives. Detention is inherently traumatic and damaging, especially for people who have fled persecution and violence in search of safety. We are advocating strongly to end the inhumane practice of family detention.”

A letter to President Obama signed by faith leaders from across America was delivered today, Hartke announced. The letter is signed by Lutheran and Catholic bishops, Jewish rabbis, and prominent leaders from other Christian denominations. Guided by their faith and “admonitions to care for and protect children,” the leaders urge President Obama to end the “inhumane and harmful” practice of family detention. The letter states that “detaining mothers and babies who come to this country in search of refuge from violence and abuse is morally troubling,” and calls on President Obama to expand alternative to detention programs.

More information on family detention and its harmful effects can be found at LIRS.org/familyvalues.

A recording of the press conference can be found here.

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Founded in 1939, LIRS 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.