Upon the recent news of numerous deaths on the US-Mexico border and appalling conditions in facilities detaining persons seeking refuge, including babies and children, the National Council of Churches is distressed by the Trump Administration policies that separate children from adult family members and caretakers, creating this crisis. We grieve the lost lives of Mr. Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, his toddler daughter Valeria, drowned in the Rio Grande, and others whose names are unknown. We echo the words of Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), and countless voices from the faith community that such deaths must never again occur.
In addition, we are shaken by reports of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions at a border control facility in Texas where children are being detained in yet another example of mass incarceration. This horrific treatment of these most vulnerable asylum seekers is reprehensible, immoral, and must cease immediately. Scripture is replete with calls to give special care to, and concern for, those seeking refuge: we are reminded over and over again to “love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:19 NRSV).”
Factors at work in this humanitarian crisis include consequences of the misguided “War on Drugs,” economic exploitation by the US of Central American countries, and a ruinous foreign policy that has shut down efforts by local people to cast off dictatorial rule. Innocent people seeking refuge should not have to bear the burden of these failed policies of the US government and decades of corrupt local leadership in Central and South America. At the same time, oppressive forces such as authoritarian governments and criminal gangs have contributed to the chaos.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we believe that God will judge all who contribute to the dehumanization of others, as well as those who are complacent and unwilling to speak out on behalf of the most vulnerable (Matthew 25:31-45 NRSV). We call upon the US Government and the Department of Homeland Security to appropriate the resources necessary to adequately care for persons seeking refuge. DHS should swiftly and completely implement changes to current operations ordered by the US District Court in the Central District of California. We demand that free and unrestrained access be given to international inspectors, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the press to the detention facilities on the border.
We call upon financial institutions to end their relationships with private companies that profit off the warehousing of brown and black bodies, whether through immigration detention or private prisons. We call upon Congress to stop funding deportation, imprisonment, and border militarization and respond robustly to the ever-worsening humanitarian disaster both at the border and in the countries from which so many are fleeing. And we call upon the Trump Administration to embark upon foreign policy initiatives that will build up healthy societies in Central and South American nations.
“The Church, when it welcomes the stranger, provides an uplifting moral and spiritual witness. While we respect and adhere to the laws of the U.S. Government, ultimate authority belongs only to God and not the State. As we seek to love our neighbors and welcome the stranger, we also seek laws that are humane and just, as are the laws of God. In light of the highest political ideals grounded in justice, equality and freedom.
“We embrace the deeper theological conviction that we are not separate and distinct from other human beings, but are a part of the same interconnected, interdependent, human family. We reaffirm previous National Council of Churches USA policies that call on the United States to do its share to alleviate human suffering in other lands by admitting refugees and immigrants and providing sanctuary to persons needing to relocate.”
— From the “Resolution on Immigration and a Call to Action,” National Council of Churches, November 12, 2008.