Statement on Family Detention

Statement on Family Detention

August 22, 2019

The Episcopal Church strongly opposes the DHS-HHS Federal Rule on Flores Agreement. As a Christian organization, our primary concern with federal policies is how they impact the most vulnerable. This rule would rollback critical child welfare protections and would undoubtedly further harm families and vulnerable children.

Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry wrote, “What is the Christian way to manage borders? Strength does not require cruelty. Indeed, cruelty is a response rooted in weakness. Jesus was clear about what true strength is and it always is driven by love. There may be many policy prescriptions, but the prism through which we view them should be the same: does the policy treat people with love, acknowledging our common humanity? If the answer is no, it is not a Christian solution.”  An examination of the family detention system in the U.S. makes it clear that this is not a compassionate response for children seeking asylum with their parents.  

Detaining children who are escaping violence should be an absolute last resort, and the Flores Settlement Agreement has established necessary guardrails for children in detention. Removing this guardrail would only expose children to further harm, as there is already significant documentation of the harm children are already exposed to in our current detention system.

Through official policy from General Convention, the governing body of The Episcopal Church, the Church deplores conditions found in immigration detention centers and the over-reliance on a costly prison-like detention system for immigrants, and urges the use of alternatives to detention, and calls for accountability and oversight to ensure detainees are provided with humanitarian treatment, adequate food and medical care, and sanitary conditions. The Episcopal Church also calls for an immediate end to the inhumane practice of family detention as a response to individuals seeking protection.

The Flores Settlement Agreement is intended to ensure the safety and proper care of children in immigration detention. This is a sensible and humane effort. For while we must ensure that those who wish to do harm here or those who are smuggling drugs or trafficking human beings are stopped, border enforcement and detention policies must not come at the detriment to human life or our legal obligations to those seeking protection. The Episcopal Church urges the administration to invest in alternatives to detention rather than relying on an expensive and inhumane system of family detention.