Responding faithfully to the targeting of Central American families for deportation

 

By: Alaide Vilchis Ibarra, Assistant Director for Migration Policy

Para ver esta respuesta en español, vaya aqui.

This month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began operations to track and deport Central American families that arrived in the U.S. after January 1, 2014. We know that at least 121 individuals have been taken into custody and reports have surfaced of children being pulled out of homes in the middle of the night.

As a church grounded in Biblical mandate to respect the human dignity of all of God’s creatures, we stand strongly against prioritizing vulnerable children and their mothers for deportation. These tactics neither honor our faithful calling to love one another nor respect the dignity of our neighbors.

Additionally, we join Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) in ourconcern for ensuring access to justice in the U.S. for these families who must navigate a complex legal system, often without necessary support. This December, our own presiding bishop, the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, witnessed first-hand the uncertainty and stress faced by children and families in Chicago’s immigration court.

The ELCA lives out God’s calling to send us into the world by accompanying displaced children and families in the U.S. and in Central America through ourcompanion relationships with churches and faith partners. Through these relationships, we receive critical insight into the realities faced by children and families who are forced to leave their communities due to targeted violence (as outlined in our report, Our Communities in Crisis).

Today, violence in countries where these children and families targeted by DHS will be deported to remains unbearably high. El Salvador is currently facing murder rates not seen since its civil war in the 1980s. The Salvadoran Lutheran Church recently reported seeing up to 30 families displaced in one neighborhood over the course of only a few days. Honduras continues to have some of the highest murder rates in the world, and in Guatemala, the United Nations reports that two women are killed each day.

As a church with faith partners working with deported children and families in El Salvador and Honduras, we know that deportation does not serve to deter children and families from leaving their communities.

In a statement from the Mennonite Social Action Committee (CASM), an ELCA partner working in a repatriation center for children and families in Honduras, they explain that “during this process of receiving deported [children and families], we have witnessed the harsh reality that [deportation] brings for these people and their families. [Families] have to come back to the same realities of extreme poverty, lack of opportunities, violence and lack of citizen security that led them to leave the country in the first place.”

Through our relationships in Central America and because of our church’s history that is deeply rooted in migration, we will continue to support our partners in the region and in the U.S. through witness, accompaniment, prayer and advocacy.

“We must advocate with our governments and authorities for the humane treatment [of migrants], and to launch fair processes for people who should be welcomed as asylum seekers, not for political reasons, but for their safety and security.” said Bishop Medardo Gomez from the Salvadoran Lutheran Church in a call to acknowledge the rights and vulnerabilities of those fleeing Central America today.

For more resources related to this issue and to learn how your congregation can help, please visit our ELCA Advocacy blog today.