September 22, 2015 STATEMENT — LIRS Dismayed with Administration’s Appeal to Continue Detaining Women and Children Refugees

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

WASHINGTON, DC – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is dismayed by the Administration’s decision to appeal the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee finding that the detention of mothers and children by the Department of Homeland Security violates the 1997 Flores settlement agreement established to protect the best interests of children in government custody. It was hoped that the court’s ruling would mark the end of the inhumane and unnecessary practice of detaining refugee mothers and children.

LIRS has steadfastly maintained that detaining families who await their day in immigration court causes permanent spiritual and psychological damage. “With this appeal, the Administration has failed to realign its policies with the Biblical command to welcome the stranger,” says Brittney Nystrom, Director for Advocacy at LIRS. “We had hoped that the Administration would accept this ruling and refrain from wasting resources defending its harmful policy of detaining refugee children and their mothers and begin using our country’s vast resources and spirit of welcome and compassion to protect and aid them.”

In announcing its decision to appeal, the Department of Homeland Security stated that it is reforming its three “family residential centers” into short-term “processing centers.” It is LIRS’s position that regardless of the name used for these centers, they are still prison-like facilities that cause harm and deny refugee families their liberty. “As long as we have family detention,” states Nystrom, “by definition, there will be children and mothers held against their will behind fences and locked doors.”

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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.