In response to United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s plans to change its family detention policy, the Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); thanks those who have advocated tirelessly to end family detention, but cautions that continued efforts are still needed.

July 15, 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Thousands of women and children are making the perilous trek from Central America to seek asylum from brutal violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The federal government is locking these families up in privately run detention centers. Our government is re-traumatizing families who have fled domestic violence and gang violence by confining them in prisons.

Monday night Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson, Richard Rocha, gave a statement regarding family detention. In this statement he said, “ ... ICE will generally not detain mothers with children, absent a threat to public safety or national security, if they have received a positive finding for credible or reasonable fear. ...”

This is a small step in the right direction, which only happened because of the tireless efforts of advocates in the faith community. I thank those of you who visited families in prison, paid bonds to secure their release, greeted families at the bus station, and marched and called and petitioned for an end to this deplorable policy of family detention.

We, however, are not done. Under the new policy asylum-seekers will still be detained while they wait for their interview. They will also be subjected to alternatives to detention with GPS ankle monitoring. We remain firm in our stance that it is inhumane to hold women and children, who have committed no crime, in detention centers or restrict their liberty in other ways for any length of time.

Further, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson did not make Monday night’s announcement. It was made by an ICE spokesperson. If DHS is serious about this change in policy, Secretary Johnson will issue an official signed memo affirming this change.

We must remember our call to love and show hospitality to our Central American sisters and brothers in Christ as commanded in Romans 12:10,13; to “be devoted to one another in love, and honor one another above yourselves … share with the Lord’s people who are in need, and practice hospitality.” We must continue to speak out and end family detention.

In Christ,

pcusa sealThe Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)