Religious Leaders Denounce Immigration Raids Targeting Sponsors of Children Seeking Safety

July 10, 2017

Washington D.C. – Last week, the Trump administration began a new wave of immigration enforcement raids, targeting sponsors of unaccompanied children. The notion that the administration would go after the caregivers of children who have experienced so much trauma, not only in the countries they are fleeing, but here in the U.S., is a moral outrage.

These individuals are parents, relatives and guardians who volunteered to care for children who fled violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador and are awaiting their immigration hearing to determine if they can find protection in the United States. The administration’s claim that they are attempting to deter smuggling is nonsensical, as these are children who are legally seeking asylum and protection in the United States. These relatives and guardians provided their information to the Office of Refugee Resettlement in order to help the U.S. government meet the needs of these children, trusting that such assistance would not be used against them. The administration is tearing families apart, instilling fear in the community, and punishing parents for trying to protect their children.

Faith leaders across denominations released the following quotes denouncing these actions:

Rev. John L. McCullough, CWS President and CEO, said:“These recent actions by ICE – raids targeting the sponsors of children seeking safety – are terrifying boys and girls who fled gang violence and conscription in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and are seeking safety “in the land of the free.” Some of these children have relatives in the United States who have stepped up to care for them as they await their immigration hearing. To go after the very same people who are providing vulnerable children with a stable environment is to violate the sanctity of family, the promise of safety, the commandments to love our neighbor and welcome the stranger, and our core values as Christians. We demand that the administration immediately stop these unjust raids and preserve the important process by which individuals can seek safety in the United States.”

Jim Wallis, President and Founder of Sojourners: “The fact that this Administration is targeting sponsors of unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador reflects the moral crisis that exists in our nation and the unacceptable failure of politicians to fix our broken immigration system. Keeping children with their parents must be an issue of moral urgency for us. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and stop keeping them away, because the kingdom from heaven belongs to people like these.’ Matthew 19:14.”

J Ron Byler, Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee U.S.: “Conducting immigration enforcement raids on the parents of children who have fled violence is against our Christian values. Parents who pay a smuggler to help their child escape life-threatening violence are not criminals. Who among us would not do the same for our child? It makes no sense to punish parents and other relatives who are financially and emotionally supporting children while they await court hearings on their asylum cases. Rather than adopting policies rooted in fear and hatred, our government leaders should heed Christ’s call to love the stranger among us and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.”

Lawrence Couch, Director, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd: Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”  Now the Trump administration targets the very people who provide shelter to children in desperate need of help and treats them as criminals.  Rather than seeing the humanity of the children who are fleeing violence and the people who offer them shelter, ICE chooses to adopt a vicious policy that tears families apart.  Regarding immigrant children, Pope Francis has stated, “This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected.”

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights: The targeting of relatives of children fleeing violence and seeking refuge in our country is cruel and unjust. The efforts of ICE serve only to terrify the immigrant community, exploiting kids for a political agenda. The moral duty of our government to protect these most vulnerable of immigrants has its basis in both human rights and Jewish tradition. The UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child states, “Society and the public authorities shall have the duty to extend particular care to children without a family and to those without adequate means of support.” In the Torah (Deuteronomy 10:18), the promise of protection specifically for those without parents is divinely sanctioned: “[God] executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving them food and clothing.” If the administration were sincere about acting in the best interest of children, it would immediately end these immoral raids that further traumatize children and instead revive efforts to reform America’s immigration system so parents would be able to shepherd their children away from gang violence as safely as possible.”

Reggie Smith, Director, Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church in North America: “Our government should be focusing on solutions to our broken immigration system, not targeting families that have willingly created a safe space for minors who have fled extreme violence and poverty.  These children have a right to seek asylum in the United States and the families that welcome them into their homes are following our Biblical call to welcome the stranger and care for the vulnerable. As these children wait for their court hearing, it is humane response to allow them to stay with family members, rather than placing them in immigrant detention, as many of them have experienced severe trauma. The administration should discontinue these unjust raids and work for the protection of children fleeing violence.”

Eli McCarthy, Director of Justice and Peace, Conference of Major Superiors of Men: “Imagine what the children feel and think. Ask ourselves, ‘how are the children?’ Then begin to consider what actions would actually meet the needs of these children. In many ways, the adult sponsors of these children have modeled this for us. Let us be led by these models. Let us act out of our humanity and conscience at all times. The law and enforcement of the law should never violate this empathy enshrined in our humanity and conscience. These ICE raids exemplify, once again, such violation.”

Sr. Marie Lucey OSF, Associate Director of Franciscan Action Network decries the recent ICE announcement which targets sponsors of unaccompanied children who have provided an alternative to detention while young people await their hearing.  Parents and sponsors have followed the rules, given their information in good faith to the government, and used their resources to assist these children, thousands of whom could be returned to detention or foster care.  For our government to take action against children and their caretakers is inhumane, and un-American.  Our faith compels us to speak against such anti-family actions by ICE.”