Note: Dr. Watkins shared the following during a Sept. 3, 2014, press conference in support of a letter sent to President Barack Obama by faith leaders. The letter urges the President to protect unaccompanied children and families in any executive action on immigration. Read the letter
A retired pastor, whose son works border patrol in Texas, describes children crossing across the border into the United States, running right into his son’s arms for safety.
In America, do we turn these babies back without due process? Do we dump them into cramped detention centers when they have relatives and communities ready to receive them? Do we place them on rocket dockets so that their attorneys cannot get to court before a hasty decision? No.
This summer, I have heard from across the church hope that our nation will respond with compassion and welcome for children who are escaping violence and death in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Our pastors have held vigils of welcome in California and Georgia. Hundreds of our women have signed letters to urge that trafficking protections be upheld.
Surely our American response to these children will be due process and placement with families as they wait. A detention center is no place for a child. Traumatized children HEAL best with their families. A great percentage—nearly 80%—attend their hearings when released to relatives—and if they have an immigration lawyer, the figure rises to over 95%!!
Our laws say that apprehended children must “be held in the least restrictive setting… and released … without unnecessary delay” to a relative or other appropriate person.*
Let us not reverse course now.
As our President considers executive action to stop the pain of families separated by our broken immigration system—executive action because a broken Congress cannot do its job to reform that system – I call upon our president to take compassionate action toward these children that is in keeping with existing national policy.
Let those children cross our border into welcoming arms.