WASHINGTON — Late last week, the Department of Homeland Security began releasing many families from immigration detention centers. Women and children who had passed the credible fear interview process, which is the first hurdle to applying for asylum, were released from the three family immigration detention centers in Berks County, Pa. and Karnes and Dilley, Texas. Faith communities have been urging DHS to stop the unjust and unnecessary use of family detention. Church World Service applauds the agency’s decision to recognize that detention is no place for mothers and children.
“The decision by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to begin the release of families and asylum seekers is long overdue, as these victims of persecution should have never been detained in the first place,” said the Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO of Church World Service. “Detention centers re-traumatize women and children who have fled unimaginable violence in their home countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. CWS urges DHS to make this a first step toward ending family detention altogether and drastically reducing the use of detention for immigration purposes.”
CWS is working with congregations in Pennsylvania and Texas to help these families as they adjust from being in detention and now await their immigration court proceedings. While CWS celebrates this decision, the organization urges DHS to ensure that every family released is made aware of appropriate housing, medical, legal and other community support available to them. CWS also asks that DHS not use additional punitive measures against these families. Families seeking asylum should not be subjected to monitoring and restrictions placed upon them through ankle bracelets and other tracking systems. Children and families released on their own recognizance have proven to show up for their immigration hearings,1 and there are community-based alternatives to ankle bracelets that are more humane and less restrictive.2
“As members of the faith community, we celebrate this step forward to provide many individuals freedom from the confines of detention, and ask that all families and asylum seekers be released,” Rev. McCullough said. “We ask our fellow brothers and sisters in the communities surrounding these immigration detention centers to help these families, and we ask DHS to continue freeing detainees – bringing humanity to our collective response to children and families fleeing violence.”
1“New Data on Unaccompanied Children in Immigration Court,” TRAC Reports, Inc.
2American Immigration Lawyers Association “Alternatives to Detention.”