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Immigration Issues

Family Detention


Latest Development and Call to Action: Raids

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is now raiding the households of families from Central America who arrived in 2014 and who have received orders of deportation. But, that same year, the Department of Justice began prioritizing the cases of unaccompanied children, detained families, and families released on alternatives to detention. This prioritization caused the cases of families with children to move at a faster pace. Asylum hearings, complex in nature in the best of circumstances, became even more difficult to manage as women and children, most without an attorney, were subjected to expedited court schedules. The government is now using their final orders of deportation as justification for raids and subsequent detention and deportation of families. Faith communities, lawyers, and advocates, however, know that many women and children did not receive due process and the orders against them should not be enforced.

Take action to stop families from being deported back to danger!

  • Connect with local immigration lawyers. Asylum cases and other claims for protection are complicated. No one should have to face the government alone. Even if you have already been denied relief, you may still have the ability to appeal. Get a lawyer and know your options.
  • If you know or are a member of a family who has received a final order of deportation, help your family or friends connect with a lawyer now before they are detained in an immigration raid. Make sure you know your rights and have created a family care plan in preparation for an immigration raid.
  • Let the Obama Administration know you are opposed to these raids! Call, write, and email the White House. (see sample script below under heading, “Take Action.”)
  • Report a raid when it is happening through United We Dream. Take photos or video. Keep notes of badge numbers, numbers of agents, who was taken and when. Call: 1-844-363-1423.

Letters and Statements from the Stated Clerk
Film Unmasks Inhumanity of Family Detention
Root Causes of Migration
Psychological Effects
Worship Resources
Take Action

Letters and statements from the Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, PC(USA)

Understanding that we profess a faith in Jesus who entered the world a refugee fleeing Herod, the General Assembly of Presbyterian Church(U.S.A.) has been making policy in support of refugees and asylum seekers since 1947. When the U.S. Government began detaining asylum-seeking families in 2014, Stated Clerk, Rev. Gradye Parsons, applied decades of policy to speak out in support of the release of asylum seekers and the end of family detention.


Film unmasks the inhumanity of family detention

During the summer of 2014, more families from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador arrived in the United States than in any other year. Though the majority of these families were seeking protection, our government’s response was to engage in contracts with private prison companies and to increase the country’s family detention bed capacity from 85 to 4,000.

Advocates then and now decry this use of enforcement against asylum-seekers and children. Legal challenges <Español> <English>, still pending, have resulted in minor changes in the practice, but the government persists in detaining families and prioritizing their removal hearings as they arrive and ask for protection at the southern border.

Use the discussion leader (PDF) and attendee guides (PDF) to show this film to your church or community group today.

The Office of the General Assembly (OGA) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) joined denomination and community partners recently to spotlight the inhumanity of detention centers in South Texas housing Central American mothers and their children. Persons of faith and conscience are organizing to provide outreach to these families and to end this disturbing practice by the United States government. The film “Families Held Captive,” produced by OGA, examines these prison-like facilities and the lives most affected. Watch, share, and learn more about how you can #EndFamilyDetention.


Root Causes of Migration

The Department of Homeland Security holds women and children in detention and prioritizes their removal cases to deter future migrants. This discounts the violence families face in their home countries. The migration of those seeking protection must be viewed bearing in mind the root causes of their flight if it is to be responded to lawfully and humanely.


Central American refugees flee violence (approximately 4 minutes) (Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
La Voz del Pueblo (The Voice of the People) documentary (approximately 19 minutes) (Ignation Solidarity Network)


Understanding and Addressing Root Causes of Central American Migration to US (Church World Service)
Children on the Run (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)
Women on the Run (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)


Psychological Effects

Children suffer emotionally, physically, and developmentally in prison. The family dynamic is undermined as children watch parents, their typical protectors and authority figures, being subjected to the authority of detention guards.

Letter to Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson (American Academy of Pediatrics)
Family Detention in Berks County, Pennsylvania (Human Rights First)
I Know an American ‘Internment’ Camp When I See One (ACLU blog post by Satsuki Ina)
Detention of Women, Children Must End Says Catholic Sister (op-ed by interim chaplain at the family detention center in Dilley, Texas)


Worship Resources

As people of faith, we take seriously the call to welcome the stranger and stand in solidarity with our Central American brothers and sisters. Use these resources to lift up families seeking protection in your worship and reflection.

  • Christian Prayer of Solidarity (PDF) (Interfaith Immigration Coalition)
  • Pastor’s Toolkit (PDF): How do we talk about the children and families who are fleeing violence in Central America? (Interfaith Immigration Coalition)
  • The Children Come,” A hymn by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
  • “Jesus Entered Egypt,” A hymn by Adam M. L. Tice and Ralph Vaughan Williams, Glory to God, p. 154


Take Action

You can take action to end the detention and deportation of asylum-seeking families by educating your church and community, contacting your elected officials, and/or directly supporting families. Remember, with all of these actions, whether it be local faith or community partners, invite others to join you in this witness.



The administrative branch of our government made the decision to imprison asylum-seeking families and to expedite their cases. The administrative branch must be urged to change its mind. Call, write, and email the White House.

Suggested script:

My name is _____ calling from _____. I am a [name of your faith community] and a constituent, and I disagree with the government’s treatment of asylum-seeking families. The asylum-seeking families being prosecuted by the Department of Homeland Security custody are seeking protection from violence, trafficking, and domestic violence. I oppose the detention of these families. I want mothers and children in removal hearings to receive due process—not expedited hearing schedules that they manage without counsel. Finally, I want the raids of the households of asylum-seeking families to end. They have not received due process and their cases should not be enforcement priorities.


The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) is a Texas nonprofit organization that began in 1986 in Madison Square Presbyterian Church to meet the needs of persons fleeing the civil wars and social upheaval in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. They continue to serve migrants today.

Help release a family from detention with your donation to the RAICES family detention bond fund.

Families are often released from detention with nothing but the clothes in which they crossed the desert. They then embark on a bus journey that is two- to three-days long to reunite with friends and family. Help prepare them for that journey by sponsoring a refugee backpack for $25 through RAICES.

Write Angel-to-Angel cards of care(PDF) and prayer to women and children detained.

Connect families to much-needed legal assistance:

Women and children who are released from family detention still have to appear at a deportation hearing. The proof and legal theories behind their claim to stay in the U.S. are complex and they are not guaranteed a lawyer at this hearing. Court records show that less than 30 percent of families have representation in court. Without an attorney, families are prevailing on their claim for protection in only 1.5 percent of cases. With an attorney the rate increases to 26.3 percent.

Families must find representation and you can help.


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