STATEMENT – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Responds to Jeff Sessions Announcement on Immigration Enforcement Actions
For Immediate Release:
May 8, 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), released the following statement in response to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement of using family separation as a deterrence strategy for illegal border crossers.
“Tearing children from the arms of their families for the sole purpose of deterring migration is both cruel and unlawful," says Dawnya Underwood, Director for Children and Family Services at LIRS. "Family unity is a fundamental human right, recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court, and has long been held as a cornerstone of U.S. migration policy. These children and families are fleeing their homes seeking protection from violence—not because entering the U.S. is easy, but because their lives are at risk. They have a right to seek asylum, and painting them as criminals does not change this fact."
Additionally, studies have shown that U.S. policy does not impact the decision to migrate from the Northern Triangle countries, making deterrence strategies like family separation as ineffective as they are inhumane.
Bottom line, this decision does nothing but hurt children who are already suffering. Children like Sami – a three-year-old who was separated from his father, Federico, at the U.S.-Mexico border. Federico shared his experience being separated from his son, “Sami begged to not be taken away and put his arms around me. I grasped him firmly in my arms. I told the officials that I would not give him up, and that they would have to take him from me. Then, one of the officers came up to me and with both hands forcefully pulled [Sami] out of my arms. They didn’t give us any paperwork to sign or anything.” Federico still does not know where his son is or whether he is safe.
LIRS has long advocated for family unity and has been tracking instances of family separation since the Administration increased the practice in May 2017. Protecting children is central to our mission and our values. Separating these vulnerable children from their families is counter to who we are as Americans and as Christians.
We call on Congress to ensure that the Administration upholds its standards of family unity and protects the interests of unaccompanied children, as mandated by their own policies.
Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is one of the largest refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. It is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating with refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through nearly 80 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.