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Press Release // Family Reunification

Leading Migrant Child Welfare Group Calls for Release of Children and Families from ICE Detention

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LIRS Staff

September 22, 2020

Leading child welfare group calls for release of children and families from ICE Detention

Contact: Timothy Young | | 443-257-6310

Washington D.C. – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), one of the oldest and largest immigration nonprofits specializing in the care of unaccompanied migrant children, today called on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to end its pursuit of the separation of families in detention facilities across the country.

ICE has been ordered by a federal judge to release children in its custody as of July 27th, but so far has refused to release them with their parents together, opting instead to give parents the impossible choice of either being separated from their children or remaining together indefinitely in detention facilities that have been ravaged by COVID-19 infections.

The call to action by LIRS follows several federal court hearings in the Flores settlement, the litigation that governs the care of migrant children in U.S. government custody, in which counsel for ICE and lawyers representing the children said they remain unable to reach a consensus on how to offer an informed choice to detained parents – meaning that no children or families are to be released in the short-term.

The following is a statement by Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president & CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service:

These binary options – be separated from your children or remain detained together indefinitely in a COVID-19 tinderbox – can hardly be considered a “choice.” Insidiously, ICE is pretending a third option doesn’t exist when it knows full well that it has always had the discretionary authority to release families together.

According to the latest case filings, nearly 120 children remained in ICE custody despite a judge’s order to release them by July 27th – approximately 50 of them under the age of 5. Family unity in the least restrictive setting is the bedrock principle of child welfare and represents the lodestar of our society’s moral compass. This is not controversial – yet ICE washes its hands of responsibility as children learn to take their first steps in a prison-like environment, riddled with COVID-19 infections. Such reckless abandon of our values does irreparable harm to families and threatens our standing as a humanitarian leader and beacon of freedom and hope to those most in need.

We call on ICE to put an end to the needless trauma and cruelty inflicted upon these children and their parents. The agency must cease its insistence on a false dichotomy that only serves to harm the most vulnerable among us. The only humane and dignified solution is to release these families together and enroll them in alternatives to detention that have proven far more successful, and at a far lesser cost to our taxpayers and our nation’s soul.

Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is one of the largest immigration and refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership working with and advocating for refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through 80 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.

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