July 13, 2015 STATEMENT — LIRS welcomes announcement that immigrant families seeking refuge in the United States will not be detained

Press Contact: Miji Bell
MBell@lirs.org; 410-230-2841

WASHINGTON, DC – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is pleased that today the Obama Administration has signaled that it is reversing course on the detention of immigrant families by releasing mothers and children who have been interviewed by the Department of Homeland Security and who have presented a credible case that they have fled their home country out of fear for their lives.

Today’s announcement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a long awaited and very significant step in the right direction for vulnerable mothers and children seeking safety in our country. These families have completed the first step in the legal process of applying for protection, and can now await and prepare for their day in court in a more humane setting.

“We are profoundly grateful that today the United States is one step closer to fulfilling its responsibility and long held value of protecting those fleeing persecution,” said Linda Hartke, LIRS President and CEO. “Children 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.”

In March, LIRS delivered a letter to the White House signed by over 80 religious leaders calling on the President to reverse course on his policy of locking up immigrant families, and to utilize reasonable alternatives that are both humane and uphold the rights and dignity of these families. As the letter made clear, faith leaders all across America are deeply concerned by the practice of incarcerating immigrant families and call for its end immediately.

“Lutherans, and people of faith in communities all across America, stand ready to welcome and embrace new neighbors. We strive to uphold the rights and dignity of each person, expecting fair treatment and due process under our laws, and will fight to keep families together,” said Hartke.

LIRS has steadfastly maintained that the practice is inhumane and has made this a priority of its advocacy and mobilization efforts. Over 6,300 mothers and children have been incarcerated in government family detention facilities, at an exorbitant cost to taxpayers, since July 2014. Some families have now been detained for over a year. Last month, the Department of Homeland Security signaled a change in policy was coming when it admitted that family detention – which is not required by law for many of the families now in detention- is an inefficient use of federal resources.

LIRS is hopeful that today’s announcement portends the end to the practice of detaining immigrant families. We urge the Administration to fully implement the reforms announced today as well as reforms previously announced in May and June by reducing bonds that families are required to post to gain release and by utilizing ankle tracking devices only in select cases where the Government demonstrates the necessity for mitigating a risk of flight or danger. Additionally, the Administration should fully employ low-cost, more humane options such as case management and community-based release programs to better equip immigrants being released from detention to abide by the conditions of their release and the findings of immigration courts. These cost-efficient programs provide needed basic support to families and achieve the government’s goals while keeping costs to a minimum.

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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. Through more than 75 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.