Washington, D.C. – Just days before the Christmas holiday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced their plans to begin raids on Central American families, many of whom fled to the United States after facing extreme violence, persecution and poverty. Faith leaders from across the United States immediately responded in a statement on Christmas Day, offering sanctuary to those looking to fight their deportation orders and seek shelter from the raids. Shortly after the new year, ICE raids began in several states, netting 121 individuals and prompting immigrants’ rights groups to increase national know-your-rights campaigns.
Today, faith and immigrants’ rights leaders joined together to call on President Obama and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to immediately put a halt to the raids. They reiterated the faith community’s offer of sanctuary and shared stories of communities and individuals impacted by the raids.
“Our country is at its best when we are most welcoming. Women and children fleeing unspeakable terror should find the tools they need to live with dignity in the United States,” said Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center. “Instead of promoting safety, the Obama administration has punished those who have put their faith in a system that has instead been prioritizing expediting deportations. This goes against our values and heritage as a nation.”
“We people of faith have learned that the laws that govern immigration in the U.S. are not only unjust, but they discourage us from living out our faith imperative to love and help our neighbor with particular concern to those who suffer most,” said Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, United Methodist Bishop for the Los Angeles Area. “We stand together on this day to oppose ICE raids on Central American families, to offer sanctuary to these families, and to renew our commitment to working for immigration reform in this country.”
Adding to the faith community’s call for an end to the raids, Rev. Alison Harrington, Pastor at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona said, “The U.S. government is once again violating their own asylum laws and international human rights standards. Human lives are on the line and our faith traditions are very clear that our salvation is dependent on what we do in this moment. In this moment as people are running away from horrific violence, the gift that we as religious leaders and as congregations have to offer is the gift of sanctuary. The movement won’t stop until there is not one more family living in fear of deportation.”
“We are very concerned with the way individuals are being targeted, their lack of access to counsel and the use of raids as a tactic. Regardless of who is being targeted, this has caused great fear and panic in the community,” said Tania Unzueta of the #Not1More Campaign. “There have been lots of concerns about civil rights and the way that ICE is carrying out these raids.”
Adelina Nicholls of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights shared reports of the fears expressed by immigrant communities due to the raids and highlighted the support that national and grassroots organizations are providing for impacted communities. “We will continue to organize and fight back against the separation of families and the deportation of children and single mothers who face potentially great danger upon returning to their homelands,” she said.
“The sanctuary movement offers a moral framework and prophetic voice to build inclusive and welcoming communities in the midst of harsh, unjust and immoral immigration enforcement actions that are terrorizing the community,” said the Rev. Noel Andersen, National Grassroots Coordinator at Church World Service. “We are now calling on the White House and DHS to stop the structural sins of raids and deportations. Instead, the administration should focus their resources on providing much needed legal assistance for these asylum seekers and humanitarian aid to address root causes of migration.”
Megan Cagle: 602-339-0723 or firstname.lastname@example.org