July 27, 2015 STATEMENT — LIRS Applauds Judicial Ruling Finding the Detention of Mothers and Children Impermissible

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

WASHINGTON, DC – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) applauds the ruling Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee finding that the detention of migrant mothers and children violates the 1997 Flores settlement agreement established to protect the best interests of children in government custody.

It is expected that the ruling will mark the end of the inhumane and unnecessary practice of detaining mothers and children, the vast majority of whom fled to the United States seeking safety. LIRS has steadfastly maintained that detaining families who await their day in immigration court causes permanent spiritual and psychological damage and has made ending family detention a priority of its advocacy and mobilization efforts. 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 community-based alternatives that are both humane and uphold the rights and dignity of these families.

LIRS calls on the Obama Administration to quickly heed the judicial ruling and draw to an end the practice of detaining immigrant families and to also improve conditions at Customs and Border Protection facilities that the ruling found to be “deplorable,” as they failed to meet basic nutrition and sanitation requirements.

“We welcome the Judge’s ruling that no child belongs in a secure and unlicensed detention facility and strongly agree that parents should be released together with their children whenever possible,” said Linda Hartke, LIRS President and CEO. “No child or family belongs in jail. Lutherans, and people of faith in communities all across America, stand ready to welcome and embrace our new neighbors as they are released from family detention facilities.”

The Department of Homeland Security should release detained mothers and children together as quickly as possible in a safe manner. Any significant flight or safety risks should be mitigated with the least restrictive form of alternatives to detention that include case management and community support.

“Once again our Administration has been given the chance to realign its policies with the biblical command to welcome strangers,” says Bishop Julian Gordy, Southeastern Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  “We are heartened and hopeful that the Administration will accept this ruling and refrain from wasting resources defending these harmful policies toward refugee children and their mothers and begin using our country’s vast resources to protect and aid them.”

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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.