Our hearts break as we continue to learn of children coming to our nation for safety and protection and subsequently being detained and even dying at our southern border while in U.S. custody. As …
Our hearts break as we continue to learn of children coming to our nation for safety and protection and subsequently being detained and even dying at our southern border while in U.S. custody. As East Jefferson County faith leaders, we are united in our concern for the well-being of vulnerable migrants who cross our borders fleeing from danger and threats to their lives.
We come together to express our collective outrage and pain over the tragic loss of precious children, made in the image of the Divine.
Carlos, a 16-year-old from Guatemala, died May 20 in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection. Wilmer, a 2-year-old, died May 14, also in the custody of CBP. They were preceded in death by Jackelin, Felipe, Juan, and a 10-year-old girl from El Salvador whose death in September 2018 has just been disclosed. We remember them before God, pray for their grieving families to be comforted and commit ourselves to work for the humane treatment of all who present themselves for asylum at our border.
These migrants have left their communities to provide safety for their children and protect them from harm. Sadly, as a nation we have denied them safety, instead placing them in detention facilities, sometimes long after the mandated 72-hour limit. Many detention centers are overcrowded and lack sanitation, further elevating the risk of serious health issues for migrants already stressed and weakened by their journeys.
We believe our nation and its leaders have both moral and legal responsibility on behalf of those who seek safety in our land. The U.S. has an international legal obligation to do so by virtue of having acceded to the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees and, therefore, must implement those duties in good faith. It also has an obligation to do so under its own domestic law, and executive orders should not attempt to set aside the legal responsibilities. The duty to not return a person to a state where they may face torture and other serious harm is absolute under the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which the U.S. has signed and ratified. These legal responsibilities are vitally important and need to be recognized; however, as faith leaders we are about an even higher law. The holy writings of our faiths are shot through with calls to love and support the orphan, widow, outsider, and immigrant. We must answer God’s call and follow Jesus’s example of loving arms open to all.
We urge the Administration to maintain its commitment to international law and defend human rights by implementing safeguards to ensure the safety and health of all those seeking protection in our land, especially those children who fall under our care. We urge our elected leaders follow God’s call to care for the stranger. We pledge to seek ways to support immigrants in our community and to support houses of worship and agencies providing support at our border.
Fr. Peter Adoko-Enchill, St. Mary’s Catholic Church
Rev. Dianne Andrews, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Rev. Tony Brown, Trinity United Methodist Church
Rev. Skip Cadorette, First Baptist Church
Rev. Paul Heins, First Presbyterian Church
Rev. Coe Hutchinson, Grace Lutheran Church
Rev. Dale Kelley
Rev. Barb Laski, United Church of Christ
Rev. Kate Lore, Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Rev. Carolyn Cristina Manzoni, Buddhist
Rev. Beth Orling, Lutheran
Rev. Jenny Vervynck, The Episcopal Church