Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Commentary: US Should Stop Locking Up Immigrant Kids

Thanks to Marcy Garriot for this one! SperoNews posted commentary by John Rausch, a Catholic priest working with Appalachian communities, on the practice of family detention. He calls upon his fellow Catholics to advocate for the humane alternatives acknowledged and funded by ICE.

Immigration officials defend family detention saying it guarantees immigrants and asylum seekers appearing for hearings and prevents them from fleeing the country. Separating the children from the parents would also introduce additional problems with foster care or locating relatives. The U.S. currently has three family detention centers with plans for three more.

Yet, ICE initiated an alternative pilot program without incarceration in 2004 that produced a 94 percent appearance rate. The program involved people facing deportation getting intensive supervision and connecting to social service agencies. Agency specialists were assigned a limited caseload of detainees that they monitored by home visits and telephone calls. No detention, families intact. Cost: $14 per detainee per day.

This approach reflects the 2003 joint statement, “Strangers No Longer,” of the Mexican and American Catholic bishops: “Those who flee wars and persecution should be protected by the global community. This requires, at a minimum, that migrants have a right to claim refugee status without incarceration and to have their claims fully considered by a competent authority” (#37). Given this alternative, people of faith can ask for a creative solution for the sake of the children.
If you are part of a community of faith, and would like to join Mr. Rausch in taking a stand against family detention, please consider issuing a faith statement. For sample statements or letters to Congress, please contact Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership (see right sidebar).