BY ISN STAFF | May 26, 2015
WASHINGTON, DC – Last Thursday, May 21, a group of faith leaders met with White House Staff to call for the end to family detention, delivering a letter signed by nearly 1,500 faith leaders from around the country. These leaders join calls by a growing number of Congressional members, civil society groups, and advocates to end this inhumane practice once and for all.
“The detention of mothers and children is so inconsistent with who we are as a country,” said Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network, a signatory of the letter delivered to the White House. Kerr continued, “As a father of three children, I am especially disturbed with the lack of regard for the psychological impacts experienced by young children who are living in these detention facilities. We must demonstrate our country’s commitment to human dignity by closing these facilities.”
The U.S. government reinstated family detention in response to the arrival of 68,684 family units at the U.S./Mexico border in 2014. Currently, over 1500 refugee mothers and children from Central America are being incarcerated in three detention centers in Karnes City, TX; Dilley, TX; and Berks County, PA. In 2009 the Obama administration closed the T. Don Hutto detention facility in Taylor, Texas due to complaints of abuse and poor conditions. Advocates and those currently detained report similar abuse as well as inadequate nutrition and medical care.
A lawsuit challenging the administration on this practice was set to be resolved this weekend, but negotiations between the parties have been extended until June 12, with a final agreement expected on June 19. Administration attorneys maintain that detention allows for greater flexibility in responding to surges of unauthorized migration.
Very Rev. Fr. Timothy P. Kesicki, S.J., president of the Jesuit Conference of the United States and Canada, made the following statement on the family detention facilities:
“As Jesuits we stand in solidarity with the mothers, infants, toddlers, children and teens being unjustly incarcerated in so-called “family immigration detention” facilities. The overwhelming majority of these children and mothers are asylum seekers who fled unspeakable violence and are searching for safe-haven within our borders. We call on the Obama Administration to end this corrosive and immoral practice immediately. These families are not flight risks, they quite obviously pose no danger to our communities. There is simply no excuse for the continued detention of mothers, children, toddlers and babies in any immigration detention facility in the United States. This shocking practice should not be the legacy of President Obama’s policy toward refugees and immigrants.”