As reports of worsening conditions mount for migrant children in U.S. custody, NAE President Leith Anderson and other evangelical leaders sent a letter to the president, vice president and congressional leaders, urging them to address the situation.
“As evangelical Christians, we believe that all people — regardless of their country of origin or legal status — are made in the image of God and should be treated with dignity and respect. Overcrowded and unsanitary conditions are inappropriate for anyone in detention, but particularly for children, who are uniquely vulnerable. Jesus reserves some of his strongest words of judgment for those who subject children to harm,” the leaders say in the letter, which was organized by the Evangelical Immigration Table.
Evangelicals are welcome to add their names to the letter here.
In the letter, evangelical leaders ask the administration and Congress to:
- Immediately appropriate adequate funding and deploy appropriately trained staff to care for children and families who are held in temporary processing facilities and in facilities for unaccompanied children;
- Respect and enforce the protections of U.S. asylum laws, ensuring that no one with a credible fear of torture or persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” is returned to their country of origin or forced to remain in unsafe third countries, and that all asylum seekers are afforded due process and treated humanely throughout the process;
- Minimize the use of detention, especially the detention of children, and utilize effective alternatives to detention to ensure that those with pending asylum cases show up for court; except in cases when there is a valid reason to suspect that an individual presents a threat to public safety, families should be allowed to rely upon sponsoring relatives and friends throughout the U.S., or upon the assistance of local churches and non-profit
organizations, rather than being detained at taxpayer expense;
- Invest in the personnel and facilities necessary to adjudicate asylum requests in a more fair and timely fashion, ensuring that qualifying individuals are more quickly afforded legal status and employment authorization and that those who do not meet the legal requirements for asylum will not be incentivized by the possibility of an extended stay in the U.S. to make a dangerous journey;
- Restore and expand U.S. assistance to faith-based and other nongovernmental organizations focused on developing opportunities and reducing poverty, violence and corruption in the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, so that fewer families will feel that they have no choice but to leave their homelands; and
- Respect the unity of the family both in the context of border enforcement and within the interior of the United States, not separating children from their parent(s) except in the rarest of circumstances when it is necessary for the wellbeing of a child.