The Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is calling on Presbyterians across the denomination to pray for the victims of a recent fire at an immigration detention center along the Mexico/Texas border. In a brief statement released Tuesday, the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, spoke out against living conditions at detention centers and urged U.S. officials to do more to protect those seeking asylum in this country.
As many as 40 people died and more than two dozen were injured in the blaze two weeks ago. The Estancia Provisional de Ciudad Juárez sits on the border across from El Paso, Texas. Authorities say six people have been charged for allegedly lighting a mattress on fire to protest upcoming deportations. There are also reports that some security guards walked away when the fire broke out and made no attempt to release those inside the cell.
“We lift to God those who died in the fire in the immigration detention center in Ciudad Juárez. We ask God to work through professionals to provide excellent medical care for those who are in the hospital,” said Nelson. “We pray for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one or struggling to be present as others recover from this tragedy.”
The PC(USA) and other denominations and organizations have been vocal for years about the poor living conditions at migrant detention facilities, including poor ventilation and inadequate food and water as well as demanding that the U.S. government stop implementing policies that create harm at the border.
Read the full statement below:
We mourn the loss of life. We lament the causes of forced migration. We cry out against the inhumane conditions of immigrant detention centers. We demand that our government stop relying on deterrence-driven policies that place asylum seekers in dangerous circumstances.
We lift to God those who died in the fire in the immigration detention center in Ciudad Juárez. We ask God to work through professionals to provide excellent medical care for those who are in the hospital. We pray for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one or struggling to be present as others recover from this tragedy.
We are part of a church that believes God provides abundant life for all. We believe in the right to seek protection and to live in dignity. Our migrant siblings weep, and so do we.
I encourage you to write to your elected officials to insist that the Biden administration stop utilizing policies that limit access to asylum protections which cause unnecessary harm — religionnews.com/2023/03/29/faith-leaders-and-religious-groups-voice-opposition-to-bidens-plan-to-restrict-asylum. I ask you to learn about the response at the border through Tres Rios Border Foundation, which is part of the Presbytery of Tres Rios — tresriosborderfoundation.org.
Let us not forget that our faith calls us to honor life.
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)