Detention Statement July 25, 2019

Detention Statement

July 25, 2019

We see our nation at the crossroads of a spiritual crisis. The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee expresses its deep concern about the inhumane conditions that our government has created and continues to maintain in the facilities detaining persons seeking asylum in our country. We urge immediate action by our government and leaders to address this developing humanitarian tragedy.

Reputable and multiple sources report that many of these asylum seekers have been denied adequate medical care and basic necessities. In addition, they are subjected to harsh living conditions in these facilities, including sleeping on concrete floors, 24/7 lighting of sleeping areas, and inadequate facilities for hygiene. We note with alarm that in the past few months multiple children and adults have died in our government’s custody. Our country’s sad history of mass incarceration and family separations, which has included but is not limited to people of African American, First Nations, and Japanese American ancestry, demonstrates the grave long-term consequences and multi-generational trauma of detention and/or family separation.[1]

Our respective faith traditions call us to treat the stranger with hospitality, dignity, and respect. For example, in Exodus 22:21 of the Hebrew Scriptures, it is commanded that “You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.” As a nation built by immigrants, we are called to an attitude of compassion towards those who in many ways resemble our own ancestors.

In a soaring statement that sums up our aspirations even as we still struggle towards its fulfillment, the foundational document of our country states that humans are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”[2] The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 14(1), provides, “Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” The rights of asylum-seekers to humanitarian treatment is not only implicit in our national foundations but explicit in our international treaty obligations.

The spiritual and ethical future of our nation is being determined by how we react in this humanitarian and spiritual crisis. If we fail to act and build compassionate policy and infrastructure surrounding asylum-seekers, we will not only cause irreparable harm to those in detention today - we will morally wound our nation and the generations to follow.

The Interfaith Conference urges its members to take action by supporting organizations that serve asylum seekers, by speaking out within our social networks, and by advocating for our government officials to take immediate, emergency action consistent with our various faith traditions and our civil society’s values.

We urge all people of faith to seek out and support the agencies and ministries of their faith traditions that are working in advocacy and relief in regards to our Nation’s immigration system.

[1] For data on the health effects on children, see Impact of punitive immigration policies, parent-child separation and child detention on the mental health and development of children by Laura CN Wood. For discussion of the long-term effects of slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow on the African American community, see Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. For data on the health effects of the Japanese-American Internment during the Second World War, see The Experience of Injustice: Health Consequences of the Japanese American Internment by Gwendolyn M. Jensen.

[2] Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.