It deeply saddens me to write how the obsolete practice of family detention in the United States is growing.
In 2007, LIRS documented how locking up mothers and children is traumatizing and inhumane. Last week, LIRS released another report, Locking Up Family Values, Again. The report found that the average age of children in detention is six years old, and that 98% of families at the Karnes Detention Facility are fleeing persecution. Detaining small children is intrinsically harmful to their growth; and detaining those who have faced violence and persecution is detrimental to their mental health, violates international law, and undercuts due process rights.
Thankfully, the American people are taking a bold stance against this practice and giving hope to families in detention. Last week, LIRS, in partnership with the Southwestern Texas Synod of the ELCA, organized an interfaith prayer vigil at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Karnes City, Texas to draw attention to and end the incarceration of migrant children and mothers from Central America who are fleeing danger, poverty, and horrific violence.
The prayer vigil drew diverse faith communities from across the state and was led by Rev. Dr. Ray Tiemann, Bishop of the Southwestern Texas Synod, ELCA and assisted by Rev. Dr. David Collins, pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and Rev. Pedro Suarez, Assistant to the Bishop, of the TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod, ELCA. Folabi Olagbaju, LIRS National Grassroots Director, coordinated the vigil.
A Salvadorian mother of a 12-year-old boy who spent more than two months at the Karnes Detention Center, spoke at the vigil. She told of being afraid that she would be separated from her child and disheartened that no one believed her story of fleeing for her life. She asked congregants to be full of prayers for her and others like her because this is what gives her and people like her hope.
After the prayer vigil, participants proceeded to the Karnes Detention Center to further put faith into action with petitions for families incarcerated within the facility, elected officials, administrators and detention officials.
The vigil ended with the ringing of the church bell sending congregants forth to a life of prayerful and compassionate service.
To read our recent report on detention, Locking Up Family Values, Again, click here.