BY ISN STAFF | February 15, 2019
In a statement convened by the Center for Migration Studies, the Ignatian Solidarity Network has joined with faith leaders across the United States in decrying the morality of a border wall. The statement affirms President Trump’s assertation that there is a humanitarian crisis at the border, but asserts that a wall does not protect and preserve the dignity and legal rights, under domestic and international law, of asylum seekers.
Statement of Faith Leaders on the Morality of a Border Wall
In his recent State of the Union (SOTU) address, President Trump stated that his quest to build a wall along the US-Mexico border was moral. In a previous Oval Office address on the subject, he suggested that those who oppose the construction of a wall were taking an immoral position.
We strongly disagree with these statements and believe just the opposite. In our view, a border wall which denies bona fide asylum-seekers from entering the country in search of protection—their right under domestic and international law—is immoral.
The majority of persons coming to the southern border are asylum-seekers, many of whom are women and children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. They are no threat to U.S. citizens and are themselves fleeing persecution and violence in their countries. A wall would keep them in danger, subjecting them to harm by drug cartels, smugglers, and human traffickers.
They, along with other migrants who are searching for work to support their families, would be driven by a wall into more remote regions of the border in an attempt to reach safety, at risk of losing their lives. When a wall was constructed in the San Diego area in the mid-1990s, for example, migrants were driven to the desert of Arizona and other remote regions in order to cross the border. According to U.S. Border Patrol statistics, over 8,000 migrants died in these areas from 1998-2016.
We acknowledge the right of a sovereign nation to control its borders to ensure the security of its citizenry. However, border enforcement must protect and preserve the human rights and human life of all persons, regardless of their legal status.
History has shown that border walls constructed to restrict human rights, such as the Berlin Wall, cause harm to human beings, all of whom possess God-given rights and are equal to us in the eyes of God. Because of this injustice, they eventually come down.
We agree with President Trump that there is a humanitarian challenge at our border, but erecting a wall would only exacerbate the situation, not solve it. Instead of fixating on a wall, the administration should ensure that people seeking safety can access our asylum system and address the push factors driving migration, policies which are more humane, and, in the long-term, more effective. The president also should focus on reforming the immigration system in a manner that is humane, just, and reflects American values.
As such, we strongly oppose a border wall and the declaration of a national emergency and transfer of funds to construct it. As a nation, we should build bridges, not walls, and remain a safe haven for the persecuted and downtrodden of the world.
- Reverend Mark Adams, Executive Director, Frontere de Cristo, Douglas, AZ
- Reverend Dr. Abigail Albert, Executive Director, Poway Interfaith Team, Poway, CA
- Monsignor Arturo Banuelas, Chairman, Hope Border Institute, El Paso, Texas
- Reverend Laura Bogle, Unitarian Universalist, Knoxville, Tennessee
- Reverend Jennifer Butler, CEO, Faith in Public Life
- Ron Byler, Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee, US
- Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director, Network, A Catholic Social Justice Lobby
- Patrick Carolan, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network
- Reverend Sean Carroll, SJ, Executive Director, Kino Border Institute
- Sr. Patricia Chappell, Executive Director, Pax Christi, USA
- Reverend Paula Clayton Dempsey, Director of Partnership Relations, Alliance of Baptists
- Larry Couch, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
- Reverend Allison Farnum, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church, Fort Myers, Florida
- Susan Gunn, Executive Director, Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns
- Reverend Dr. J. Lee Hill, Jr, Interfaith Justice Coalition of Alliance San Diego
- Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Truah, the Rabbinical Call for Human Rights, New York, NY
- Reverend Kimberly Quinn Johnson, Unitarian Universalist, Congregation of South Fork, Bridgehampton, New York
- Julia Brown Karinim, President, Division of Overseas Ministries, Christian Church, Disciples of Christ
- Nancy K. Kaufman, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women
- Christopher Kerr, Ignatian Solidarity Network
- Reverend Dr. Michael Kinnamon, PhD, Former General Secretary, World Council of Churches, Vista La Mesa Christian Church, San Diego, CA
- Sr. Brigid Lawlor, Congregation of Our Lady of the Good Shepherd, US province
- Reverend Rebecca Littlejohn, Senior Pastor, Vista La Mesa Christian Church, La Mesa, CA
- Reverend Sotello Long, President, Disciples Home Mission
- Edith A. Love, Unitarian Universalist community minister, Memphis, TN.
- Eli McCarthy, Director of Justice and Peace, Conference of Major Superiors of Men
- Reverend John McCullough, President and CEO, Church World Service
- Sister Patricia McDermott, RSM, President, Sisters of Mercy
- Reverend Sarah Gibb Millspaugh, Pacific Western Region of Unitarian Universalist Association
- Reverend Mary Moore, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington-Normal, IL
- James Moos, Associate General Minister for Global Engagement and Operations, United Church of Christ
- Reverend Teresa Hord Owens, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in US and Canada
- Reverend Jennifer Peck, Pocatello Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Pocatello, ID
- Justin Rabbach, Executive Director, Board of World Mission, Moravian Church in North America
- Reverend William Radatz, San Diego, CA
- Diane Randall, Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation
- Reverend Angel L. Rivera, Latin America and the Caribbean Global Ministries, Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ
- Reverend Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea, Director, Disciples Refugee and Immigration Ministries, Washington, DC
- Ava Steaffens, CEO, Christian Community Development Association
- Reverend Ann Willever, First Universalist Society (Unitarian Universalist), Franklin, MA
- Scott Wright, Director, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Washington, DC
- Carol Zinn, SSJ, Executive Director, Leadership Conference of Women Religious