STATEMENT — Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Strongly Condemns New House Bill that Would Have Devastating Consequences for Refugees, Children, Vulnerable Migrants

May 19, 2017

Press Contacts:

Miji Bell
mbell@lirs.org; 410-230-2841

Michelle Blundell
mblundell@mrss.com; 202-478-6176

WASHINGTON, DC – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) opposes H.R. 2431, introduced this week by Congressman Raul Labrador (R-ID) and House Judiciary Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA), which will continue to be marked up next week.

If passed, H.R. 2431 will greatly increase the power of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and build a massive deportation force that will have devastating and long term consequences on immigrant communities, particularly refugees and other vulnerable migrants, including children, trafficking victims, and asylum seekers, for many years to come. The bill will add thousands of additional border and immigration officers to raid communities and stoke fear, and further punish children and families fleeing violence in their home countries by sending them into immigration detention, instead of offering them safe and cost-effective alternatives to detention while they make their asylum claim. Additionally, the bill calls for an expansion of already sweeping inadmissibility provisions that mislabel innocent refugees and victims of armed groups as supporters of terrorism.

“This bill will only exacerbate the harm caused by our broken immigration system, rather than repair it,” said Linda Hartke, LIRS President and CEO. “Children are being separated from their parents, families are being detained in jail-like facilities causing significant trauma, and law-abiding members of our communities are being deported every day throughout our country right now,” Hartke added. “This is not the type of reform that is needed to improve our immigration system, or make our nation safer and stronger. In fact, this bill runs contrary to our country’s values by making those who deserve compassion and a helping hand, all the more vulnerable—and at great cost to our communities and our nation.”

This bill mirrors language seen earlier this year in President Trump’s executive orders. It would allow authorities to carry out warrantless arrests of individuals they believe to have committed felonies, permit removal of recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from their communities, and eliminate existing protections for children who are with a parent or legal guardian when apprehended by immigration enforcement. In addition, the bill gives ICE the authority to detain children in jails with no oversight, no time limits, and no protections, which is shocking.

The reality is that thousands of children and families who are risking their lives to reach safety in America are doing so because of violence or the threat of persecution in their homeland. This bill would make children even more vulnerable to the risks they already encounter on that journey, including human trafficking. Given this, any changes to immigration law, policy or procedure should preserve or provide special protections for all children and require immigration officers to consider each child’s best interest, as detailed by the guiding principles for children impacted by immigration, recently developed by 60 child welfare organizations.

“President Trump’s harsh rhetoric targeting immigrants has stoked fear within among children and adults in our immigrant communities and sparked added distrust of local law enforcement. The swelling deportation and detention of vulnerable families, are unnecessary tactics that will only further fracture an already strained relationship between the police and local immigrant communities,” said Hartke.

As Americans and people of faith, it is our duty to advocate against any bill or policy change that would uproot communities and tear families apart. Criminalizing a person for not being from America is the exact opposite of what it means to be an American. For the sake of children and families, and all those seeking safety and new chance at life on our shores, we must not give into the unreasonable fear and harsh rhetoric. America has, and always will be, a nation that is open to immigrants. This bill directly contradicts that.

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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.