June 20, 2014 STATEMENT–Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Deeply Troubled by Proposed Expansion of Detention for Migrant Families with Children

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

Washington, D.C.As the national organization established by Lutheran churches to serve uprooted people, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is gravely disappointed by the announcement that the Obama Administration will expand the use of detention facilities for families. The humanitarian crisis that has forced families with children to make the perilous journey seeking safe haven in America has already overwhelmed a badly broken immigration system.

“Families with children who have undertaken a dangerous and traumatic journey seeking safety are among the most vulnerable individuals in the United States and they deserve to be embraced in our homes, our churches and our communities,” said LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke. “Detention is completely inappropriate for families and we are keen to work with the Administration to identify more humane, compassionate and just alternatives.”

On this internationally recognized World Refugee Day, LIRS calls for the Obama Administration to seek solutions to this humanitarian migration crisis that uphold family values, due process, and the rights and dignity of the women and children whose lives are at risk. These families braved treacherous journeys to flee violence and crime in Central America and must be treated fairly and in ways that exemplify American values of offering protection.

“LIRS and Lutherans all across America stand with these women and children – families must come first. We reject the premise that it is in America’s interest to incarcerate families,” said Hartke. “Our faith compels us to speak out and to act in ways that demonstrate God’s love for all people.”

LIRS urges the Administration to seek alternatives to detention for these families.  Alternatives to detention have been demonstrated to effectively serve the interests of the government in upholding the law while also protecting due process and ensuring immigrants have a fair chance for justice. LIRS is a leader in developing community-based alternatives to detention and is willing to work constructively with the government to implement alternate solutions at this time. LIRS calls upon the Obama Administration to set aside the expedient answer that is, by default, the expensive and inhumane practice of putting children and families into jail-like settings.

More information about alternatives to detention may be read here: www.lirs.org/dignity.

In 2007 LIRS and the Women’s Refugee Commission released Locking Up Family Values: The Detention of Immigrant Families, a report which investigated the jailing of immigrant families in the T. Don Hutto Residential Treatment Center in Taylor, TX and the Berks County Shelter Care Facility in Leesport, PA. It documented disturbing incidents of ICE failing to meet the basic needs of families in its custody.  The report Locking up Family Values may be read here: http://lirs.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/RPTLOCKINGUPFAMILYVALUES2007.pdf

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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.