April 4, 2016

Dear Members of Congress,

I write today as the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to express opposition to anti-refugee legislation and support for S. 2540, “The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2016.”

The world is in the midst of a refugee crisis. Civil war, persecution, and genocide have displaced 60 million souls from their homes. In this time when the world’s sorrows are great, it is the desire of many Presbyterians to extend welcome to those seeking safety. This call to choose welcome is our faithful and compassionate remembrance that we too once “were strangers in the land of Egypt.”[1] This call comes from our history of actively assisting in refugee resettlement. We know, firsthand, that by choosing welcome, we have entertained angels.[2]

The stated purpose of HR 4731, HR 4038, and other anti-refugee bills is to limit welcome, thereby making this nation safe. But the claim that welcoming refugees makes us unsafe is a fiction. The U.S. refugee system has a decades-long record of using thorough methods when vetting refugees to be resettled in this country. In truth, closing our doors to those in need is what isolates us, turning neighbors into strangers and creating the divisions and misunderstandings that breed violence and terror. I, therefore, oppose HR 4731, HR 4038, and other anti-refugee bills.

Finally, I express support of S. 2540, “The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2016.” Currently no one, not even children, has a right to appointed counsel in immigration court. The reasoning is that immigration court is civil in nature and people are only at risk of civil penalties. Yet, every day men, women, and children, without counsel, lift up defenses such as the convention against torture, asylum, and withholding of removal. All of the aforementioned defenses are claims that a person will be persecuted, tortured, or killed if returned to their home country. They are fighting for their lives—alone. Protecting the rights of children with appointed counsel in immigration court is just one small step toward the due process, which can only be achieved when, God willing one day, all in immigration court have the right to appointed counsel.

In Christ,

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

[1] Deut. 10:19, NRSV.
[2] Heb. 13: 1–2, NRSV.