Indefinite Detention Sign-on Letter

October 17, 2011

Dear Member of Congress,
We, the undersigned faith-based organizations and faith leaders, value the dignity of every individual regardless of citizenship and respect the rights of all people to enjoy safety and freedom. As our traditions and holy texts call upon us to welcome the stranger, our organizations and ministries work to provide friendship, human care, and legal assistance to migrants navigating our complex immigration system. The psychological harms of immigration detention, particularly on migrants seeking asylum, torture survivors and victims of human trafficking, have been well-documented.

Earlier this year, Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX-21) introduced H.R. 1932, the Keep Our Communities Safe Act of 2011 and on July 14, 2011, H.R 1932 was passed in committee. While bill supporters claim that the measure is intended to address problems with deporting noncitizens to countries that lack formal diplomatic relations with the United States or countries that are unwilling to accept some of their deportees, the bill fails to solve these issues. As Representative Lofgren (D-CA-16) noted in the committee mark-up of the bill, “This is a foreign policy issue and cannot be solved by indefinitely locking up people who have no control over whether or not their country takes them back.” The bill would indefinitely detain thousands of immigrants,
including asylum seekers and victims of torture and divert precious government resources from the activities that actually keep our communities safe. This population also includes formerly incarcerated individuals who have paid their debt to society and are seeking to rebuild their lives. We therefore urge you to oppose H.R. 1932.

Individuals held in detention require individualized assessments to ensure that their detention is necessary. H.R. 1932 curtails the government’s ability to make these assessments and limits migrants’ ability to challenge their detention. This is especially harmful given that 84% of detained immigrants do not have legal counsel.

The bill also targets individuals whose countries of origin lack formal diplomatic relations with the United States or delay in providing them with travel documents. Consider the story of a Cuban immigrant recently featured in the Miami Herald who would be impacted by H.R. 1932.1 In 1980 Julio Muñoz arrived to the United States from Cuba as part of the Mariel Boatlift. After completing a prison sentence for drug possession charges, immigration authorities picked up Julio and placed him in immigration detention. Because Cuba does not have formal diplomatic relations with the United States, Julio spent more total time in immigration detention than he did in prison. In 2005, the Supreme Court found that the indefinite detention of Cuban migrants who were part of Mariel Boatlift was unconstitutional. After being detained for nearly three years, Julio was finally released. 1 Chardy, Alfonso. “Cubans Who Can’t be Deported Could End Up Detained in U.S.,” Miami Herald, June 21, 2011, If H.R. 1932 became law, Julio would be detained indefinitely with limited judicial review of his
detention.

Prolonged and indefinite detention would also result in significant costs to U.S. taxpayers and the federal government. In fiscal year 2011, U.S. taxpayers will spend $1.9 billion on immigration detention. If H.R. 1932 became law, it would require U.S. taxpayers to pay $45,000 per person annually to detain immigrants who pose neither a flight risk nor a danger to U.S. communities. In fiscal year 2010, ICE detained approximately 363,000 individuals. At a time when funds for the most basic community programs are scarce, this bill would commit precious taxpayer dollars to lock up harmless migrants who do not need to be detained. As people of faith, we call attention to the moral dimensions of public policy and recommend reforms that uphold the God-given dignity and rights of every person, each of whom are made in the image of God. H.R. 1932 fails to address the rights and diverse needs of migrants by
applying a “one-size fits all” approach whose default is detention. We encourage Congress to oppose the flawed bill and instead seek solutions to provide fair and just reforms to the U.S.
immigration system.

Sincerely,

National Organizations
African American Ministers In Action
American Jewish Committee
Columban Center for Advocacy Outreach
Disciples Justice Action Network
Dianne Aid, TSSF, President of the Episcopal Network for Economic Justice
The Episcopal Church
Episcopal Network for Economic Justice
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
Jewish Community Action
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
Jubilee Campaign USA
L'Shalom
Little Sisters of the Assumption JPIC Commission, U.S. Province
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
Missionary Oblates Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
Network, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
PICO National Network
Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Sojourners
Union for Reform Judaism
World Relief

Organizations and Faith Leaders by State
Arkansas

Arkansas Interfaith Alliance, North Little Rock
Rev. Stephen Copley, Arkansas Interfaith Alliance, North Little Rock

California
Rev. Roberto Colon, Iglesia de la Comunidad, Presbyterian Church (USA), Los Angeles
Rev. Thomas C. Jackson, President, Oasis California
Rev. Anne Jansen, Episcopal Church, Oakland
Rev. Anna Lange-Soto, Chair, Episcopal Diocese of California Migration and Immigration
Task Force
Rev. John Rawlinson, Ph.D, St. James / Santiago Episcopal Church, Oakland
Lutheran Office of Public Policy - California
Rev. Canon Mary Moreno Richardson, Canon for Hispanic Ministry, St. Paul’s Episcopal
Cathedral, San Diego
Judith Kulick, Ikar, Los Angeles
Rev. Katherine Salinaro, Episcopal Diocese of California
Rev. Sue Thompson, St Edmund's Episcopal Church, Pacifica
Jesse Castaneda, Chair, Silicon Valley Alliance for Immigration Reform (SVAIR), San Jose
Leader, Justice for Immigrants (JFI), St. Julie's Biliart

Colorado
Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, Denver
Comunidad Liberacion/Liberation Community, Denver
Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Colorado
Rev. Daniel Klawitter, Chairperson, Interfaith Worker Justice Committee of Colorado

Florida
Fran Ricardo, Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice

Georgia
Martie Kaufman, LMSW(pr), Church of the Brethren, Savannah

Illinois
Lutheran Advocacy – Illinois
Marilyn Kofler, SP, Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants, Archdiocese of Chicago

Iowa
Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton
Elaine Hagedorn, CHM, Des Moines

Louisiana
Donald Bahlinger, S.J., Ignatius Residence, New Orleans

Maryland
Rev. Richard Graham, Bishop of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod, Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America
Rev. Dr. Philip C. Hirsch, Director for Evangelical Mission & Assistant to the Bishop,
Metropolitan Washington DC Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Minnesota
Interfaith Coalition on Immigration – Minnesota (ICOM)
Jewish Community Action, St. Paul
New Jersey
Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry, New Jersey Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America
Casa de Esperanza, Bound Brook
Sisters of St. Joseph ESL, Bayonne

New Mexico
Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – New Mexico
New York
New York State Interfaith Network for Immigration Reform
Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition, New York
Pastor Jeff Wells, Board of Church and Society, NY Conference, United Methodist Church

Ohio
Marco Saavedra, Immigration Organizer, Cincinnati Faith & Justice
Rev. Dr. Kristine Suna-Koro, Xavier University, Cincinnati, Latvian Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America
Rev. Rich Nathan, Senior Pastor, Vineyard Church of Columbus
Troy Jackson, co-pastor, Christian Community Church, Cincinatti
Marge Townsend, Methodist Federation for Social Action, Windsor

Oregon
Oregon New Sanctuary Movement, Portland

Pennsylvania
Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Council of Churches

Texas
WIN - The Welcoming Immigrants Network, Dallas
Dominican Sisters of Houston
Rev. Dean Reed, United Methodist Pastor, Dallas

Virginia
Rev. Richard Graham, Bishop of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod, Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America
Rev. Dr. Philip C. Hirsch, Director for Evangelical Mission & Assistant to the Bishop,
Metropolitan Washington DC Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Rev. Margaret H. Watson, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Richmond
Rev. Eric Wester, Chaplain (Colonel-Retired), U.S. Army, Arlington

Washington
Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel, Episcopal Bishop of Olympia
Rev. Josefina Beecher, La Iglesia Episcopal de la Resurreccion, Mount Vernon
Rt. Rev. Sanford Z. K. Hampton, Assistant Bishop of Olympia (Ret.), The Episcopal Church in
Western Washington

Washington, D.C.
Rev. Sarabeth Goodwin, Latino Missioner, St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church,
Washington, DC
Rev. Richard Graham, Bishop of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod, Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America
Rev. Dr. Philip C. Hirsch, Director for Evangelical Mission & Assistant to the Bishop,
Metropolitan Washington DC Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Wisconsin
Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters Leadership Council, Wisconsin

Regional/Unaffiliated Individuals
Central/Southwest
Unitarian Universalists congregations in the Mountain Desert District (CO, ID, MT, NE, NM,
TX, UT, WY)
Patricia Chafee, O.P.
Rabbi Joel R. Schwartzman

Related Topics: