Press Contact: Miji Bell
WASHINGTON, DC — Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is gravely concerned about the Obama administration’s recent announcement that they will begin deporting unaccompanied children and families who came to the U.S. last summer seeking protection and asylum. In recent days, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has taken over 100 persons into custody, primarily in Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina.
LIRS’s primary concern is that some of the families targeted for deportation have valid claims to asylum, or are otherwise deserving of humanitarian protection, but exhausted the legal process in a system that is unfairly stacked against them. Many families face severe challenges in successfully navigating the United States’ complicated immigration court system without access to adequate legal representation or adequate notice of the court date. Immigration courts are often traumatizing and overwhelmingly complicated to navigate. Furthermore, the asylum framework was not designed to protect people from the generalized violence and broken states that these families have fled.
At the heart of our concern are the extremely dangerous conditions in the Central American countries from which these families escaped. Over 80 U.S. individuals who made it to the Unites States from this region have reportedly been deported to their deaths in Central America since 2014.
LIRS urges Department of Homeland Security officials to exercise careful and compassionate prosecutorial discretion when determining whether to deport families seeking refuge. Vulnerable families should not be further endangered based on inability to access justice or in hopes of deterring others from escaping life-threatening circumstances in search of safety and hope.