January 11, 2016

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Secretary of Homeland Security
Nebraska Ave. Center, NW
Washington, DC 20528

Dear President Obama and Secretary Johnson,

I write to you today as the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to remind you of this nation’s duty to those who enter our borders seeking refuge, and to urge you to cease raiding the homes of asylum-seeking families who have received orders of deportation.

This administration lifts up the virtues of refugee resettlement when an ocean separates us, but punishes those who enter this nation from our own hemisphere. From the beginning of the Central American refugee crisis, the government has reacted to the women and children arriving at our southern border with an unfounded level of enforcement. Families have been incarcerated for months upon entry into the United States. They have gone to court unrepresented and lost their claims to asylum because of fast-paced and confusing dockets. Now the administration is calling women and children, who pose no threat to this country, enforcement priorities solely based on the date they entered the U.S. to ask for protection. To continue raiding their homes and enforcing these questionable deportation orders shows this administration is no longer capable of recognizing the human tragedy it is perpetuating.

What happened at our southern border in the summer of 2014 and what continues to happen today is not a “spike” in “illegal” immigration that needs to be responded to as a threat to border security. In fact, to begin this discussion at our border discounts a multitude of tragedies that forced human lives to our nation. This crisis began in the towns and homes of families, where innocent lives were threatened and murders occurred.

Many lives have been saved by our asylum laws, which, as you know, allow for persons to enter without immigration status to ask for protection. Now families, like birds scattered from their nests, come crossing the Rio Grande. Our asylum laws, along with the promise of due process afforded by our Constitution, have the power to, “shade like night at the height of noon” and to “be a refuge to them from the destroyer”[1] We are not threatened by the arrival of families who held those promises in their hearts as they traveled to this country. We are only at threat when we ignore those laws and protections and relinquish the values they represent to guard ourselves from those in need. This nation, if it is to keep its moral integrity, must end family detention, reform the asylum process to afford due process, and end the raids of the households of families who have fallen victim to a system that guaranteed their failure.

In Christ,

The Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

[1] Isaiah 16:3–4 (NRSV).