Christian, Catholic, Lutheran, and Jewish leaders call for an end to detention of families

Christian, Catholic, Lutheran, and Jewish leaders call for an end to detention of families

March 26, 2015

Honorable Barack H. Obama


United States of America

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20500

Mr. President:

As faith leaders representing churches, synagogues, and faith-based organizations in the United States who are deeply committed to upholding this country’s moral leadership to protect children and the sanctity of the family, we call on you to end the harsh policy of family detention and employ alternatives to detention where deemed necessary. We believe this practice to be inhumane and harmful to the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of this vulnerable population.

We also believe that it is inappropriate and unjust to seek to deter anyone, especially a woman and her children, from fleeing violence in their homeland to seek safe haven in the United States. A recent decision by the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., which issued an injunction halting the detention of families, agreed with this assessment, concluding that a strategy of deterrence does not warrant the deprivation of individual liberty.

As people of faith, we are guided by admonitions to care for and protect children. Studies have shown that detention has a harmful psychological effect on children, in which they grow despondent, lose weight, and do not advance in their intellectual or emotional growth. Detention also undermines family bonds and parental authority. Moreover, children and their parent(s) have already experienced trauma on their journey, with many of the women having endured sexual violence. Placing survivors of violence in detention only adds to their trauma and sense of insecurity. It also subjects them to possible further emotional or physical abuse.

These families are not a threat to our communities—they pose no risk to our safety and have committed no crimes. They are themselves fleeing real forms of terror, with a majority having valid asylum claims. While in detention they have less ability to access counsel to help them with their claims, leaving them without due process protections. Their detention also hinders the ability to gather evidence of their persecution, diminishing their chances of obtaining protection.

Instead of incarcerating these vulnerable families, we urge you to reconsider the need to detain them and release them on their recognizance or explore other alternatives, such as placement in a community-based case management program.

Mr. President, detaining mothers and babies who come to this country in search of refuge from violence and abuse is morally troubling. The Bible is very clear—we are called to welcome the stranger. We ask you to consider whether you are prepared for your legacy to include the purposeful detention of innocent mothers and babies in furthering an ineffective policy of deterrence that violates fundamental tenants of our faiths and the American ideal of providing freedom and refuge to the persecuted. The incarceration of vulnerable mothers and children fleeing violence in their home countries is a stain on the record of this Administration.

We urge you to reverse course on this policy and implement alternatives for all families in immigration detention which are humane and uphold the human rights of this vulnerable population. Our faith communities are ready and willing to welcome and assist families seeking refuge.


U.S. Catholic Bishops

Most Reverend Gustavo Garcia-Siller Archbishop of San Antonio, Texas


Most Reverend Thomas Wenski Archbishop of Miami, FL


Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio Bishop of Brooklyn, NY


Most Reverend Eusebio Elizondo Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle, WA


Most Reverend Gerald Kicanas Bishop of Tucson, AZ


Most Reverend Mark Seitz Bishop of El Paso, Texas


Most Reverend Jaime Soto Bishop of Sacramento, CA


Most Reverend James Tamayo Bishop of Laredo, Texas


Most Reverend Anthony B. Taylor Bishop of Little Rock, AR


Most Reverend John C. Wester Bishop of Salt Lake City, UT

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA


Bishop Abraham Allende, Northeastern Ohio Synod, ELCA


Bishop Jon Anderson, Southwestern Minnesota Synod, ELCA


Bishop Jim Arends, La Crosse Area Synod, ELCA


Bishop Jeff Barrow, Greater Milwaukee Synod, ELCA


Bishop Tracie L. Bartholomew, New Jersey Synod, ELCA


Bishop Leonard Bolick, North Carolina Synod, ELCA


Bishop Terry Brandt, Eastern North Dakota Synod, ELCA


Bishop Dave Brauer-Rieke, Oregon Synod, ELCA


Bishop Michael Burk, Southeastern Iowa Synod, ELCA


Bishop Claire S. Burkat, Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, ELCA

Bishop Jessica Crist, Montana Synod, ELCA


Bishop Steven Delzer, Southeastern Minnesota Synod, ELCA


Bishop Suzanne Dillahunt, Southern Ohio Synod, ELCA


Bishop Robert L. Driesen, Upper Susquehanna Synod, ELCA


Bishop Ralph Dunkin, West Virginia-West Maryland Synod, ELCA


Bishop Jim Dunlop, Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA


Bishop R. Guy Erwin, Southwest California Synod, ELCA


Bishop Murray D. Finck, Pacifica Synod, ELCA


Bishop Mary Froiland, South-Central Synod of Wisconsin, ELCA


Bishop William Gafkjen, Indiana-Kentucky Synod, ELCA


Bishop Michael Girlinghouse, Arkansas- Oklahoma Synod, ELCA


Bishop Julian Gordy, Southeastern Synod, ELCA


Bishop Richard H. Graham, Metropolitan Washington, D. C. Synod, ELCA


Bishop Roger Gustafson, Central States Synod, ELCA


Bishop Wolfgang Herz-Lane, Delaware- Maryland Synod, ELCA

Bishop Mark Holmerud, Sierra Pacific Synod, ELCA


Bishop Rick Hoyme, Northwest Synod of Wisconsin, ELCA


Bishop Richard Jaech, Southwestern Washington Synod, ELCA


Bishop Kevin S. Kanouse, Northern Texas- Northern Louisiana Synod, ELCA


Bishop Donald P. Kreiss, Southeast Michigan Synod, ELCA


Bishop Marcus C. Lohrmann, Northwestern Ohio Synod, ELCA


Bishop Brian Maas, Nebraska Synod, ELCA


Bishop John Macholtz, Upstate New York Synod, ELCA


Bishop Gerald Mansholt, Central Synod of Wisconsin, ELCA


Bishop James Mauney, Virginia Synod, ELCA


Bishop Wayne Miller, Metropolitan Chicago Synod, ELCA


Bishop Mark Narum, Western North Dakota Synod, ELCA


Bishop Rodger Prois, Western Iowa Synod, ELCA


Bishop Michael Rhyne, Allegheny Synod, ELCA


Bishop Robert Rimbo, Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA


Bishop Michael Rinehart, Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, ELCA

Bishop S. John Roth, Central/Southern Illinois Synod, ELCA


Bishop Craig Satterlee, North/West Lower Michigan Synod, ELCA


Bishop Robert Schaefer, Florida-Bahamas Synod, ELCA


Bishop Ann Svennungsen, Minneapolis Area Synod, ELCA


Bishop Steve Talmage, Grand Canyon Synod, ELCA


Bishop Ray Tiemann, Southwestern Texas Synod, ELCA


Bishop Steven Ullestad, Northeastern Iowa Synod, ELCA


Bishop B. Kirby Unti, Northwest Washington Synod, ELCA


Bishop Shelley Wickstrom, Alaska Synod, ELCA


Bishop Lawrence R. Wohlrabe, Northwestern Minnesota Synod, ELCA


Bishop Gary Wollersheim, Northern Illinois Synod, ELCA


Bishop Herman Yoos, South Carolina Synod, ELCA


Bishop David B Zellmer, South Dakota Synod, ELCA


Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod

Rev. John R Denninger, President, Southeastern District, LCMS


Rev. Kurtis D. Schultz, President, Southern District, LCMS

Rev. Dr. Larry Stoterau, President, Pacific Southwest District, LCMS


Rev. Gregory S. Walton, President, Florida- Georgia District, LCMS


National Hispanic Evangelical Coalition

Dr. Gabriel Salguero

President, National Hispanic Evangelical Coalition

Pastor, Lambs Church


Jewish Leaders

Robert Cohen, Executive Director, Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit


Rabbi Michael E. Feinberg, Executive Director, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition


Rabbi Eli Freedman


Rabbi Jonathan D. Klein, Executive Director, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE-LA)


Rabbi George Stern


Christian Reformed Church North America

 Dr. Steve Timmermans, Executive Director, Christian Reformed Church North America


United Church of Christ

Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ


Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, Executive Minister, Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ

Rev. James Moos, Executive Minister, Wider Church Ministries, United Church of Christ

Rev. J. Bennett Guess, Executive Minister, Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ”




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