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(CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters)
Jesuits Denounce Unjust Treatment of Asylum Seekers and Migrant Families at the U.S. Southern Border

June 21, 2018 — The Jesuit Conference’s Office of Justice and Ecology, along with several other Jesuit organizations, including 11 Jesuit law schools, has denounced the Trump Administration’s “morally repugnant” zero tolerance policy that reinforces the criminalization of migration and has already separated thousands of migrant families

"We denounce President Trump’s recent Executive Order, which fails to provide a solution to the family separation crisis, and instead mandates that migrant families be held in detention. And we decry the failure of the U.S. Government to comply with international and U.S. law in processing and referring fear-based asylum claims at U.S. Ports of Entry in a timely manner. These policies and practices are morally repugnant, violate the rights of asylum seekers as well as children and families, and create permanent harm to the spirit, health and well-being of vulnerable individuals and families." 

In addition to the Jesuit’s Office of Justice and Ecology, the statement came from Loyola University Chicago’s Center for the Human Rights of Children, the Kino Border Initiative, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and 11 Jesuit law schools.

Jesuit organizations along the U.S.-Mexico border, such as the Kino Border Initiative, have been accompanying individuals and families who want to access their right to international protection. However, the organizations have witnessed long delays by Customs and Border Protection in the processing and referral of these lawful claims at U.S. Ports of Entry, leaving vulnerable migrants in precarious situations for up to 14 days. 

“Rather than accessing their rights, migrants are suffering hunger and thirst, threats and other forms of violence,” the statement said. “In desperation, some choose to cross the border at unofficial points of entry because they have been denied their right to access safety or because they were never aware of the asylum process in the first place, but only knew that they needed to bring their children to safety.”

While the criminalization of border crossing is not new, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent announcement that every migrant crossing without inspection will be prosecuted without regard for family unity or fear of return to their country of origin has meant that asylum seekers are criminally sentenced for seeking safety and parents are forcibly separated from their children.

"Detaining children and separating them from their families causes permanent harm to the spirit, health and well-being of these vulnerable children and their families," the statement said.

To date, there are thousands of cases of parents being arrested and detained when arriving at the border, while their children are forcibly removed from them and detained in a separate facility run by the Department of Health and Human Services. These include infants, toddlers and disabled children who have never been apart from their parents.

The statment said that President Trump’s recent Executive Order, which mandates the detention of families to keep children with their parents, "falls far short of our calls to uphold the dignity of children and families. We reject this policy because we have seen that detention is detrimental to the physical, spiritual and mental well-being of the individual, especially of children." 

"As organizations that seek to promote the rights of children and families and protect the rule of law, we reject these policies as contrary to our Jesuit values, human rights and children’s rights principles, and refugee law – all of which protect the rights of safe migration and family unity. These policies violate the best interest of the child, one of the most universally understood principles of child welfare, and a standard we apply to our own children in domestic child welfare proceedings." 

The Jesuit orgainzations called on Congressional leaders to work together to ensure that the rights of the most vulnerable among us are protected. "Founded on the core Jesuit values of welcome and accompaniment, we will continue to stand up for the dignity and inherent rights of any displaced person.” To read the full statement, click here.





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