Evangelical leaders and organizations are calling on Congress and the Trump administration to immediately address the needs of migrant children who are being deprived of basic needs in detention centers.
The Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of evangelical groups and leaders seeking comprehensive immigration reform, sent an open letter to President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Congress on Thursday.
The open letter demanded that the political leaders come together to aid the migrant children of adults seeking asylum and those who entered the country illegally, declaring that “Jesus reserves some of his strongest words of judgment for those who subject children to harm.”
“Overcrowded and unsanitary conditions are inappropriate for anyone in detention, but particularly for children, who are uniquely vulnerable,” stated the EIT letter.
“As you address these urgent concerns, we are committed to praying for you, even as we also pray for vulnerable children and families, for the churches, ministries and organizations assisting them in both the U.S. and Mexico, and for Homeland Security officials and other public servants charged with protecting the country and humanely processing asylum seekers.”
Specific demands by EIT included giving the necessary funding and trained staff to care for those held in temporary processing facilities and especially unaccompanied children, enforcing U.S. asylum laws, minimizing the usage of detention centers, especially for children, and to respect “the unity of the family” by not enacting family separation at the border unless absolutely necessary.
Signatories of the letter included Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief; Doug Clay, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, USA; Shirley V. Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; and Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
During a press call held Thursday, EIT representative Matthew Soerens explained to The Christian Post that the groups who signed onto the EIT letter are not as focused on the specific bills being debated in Congress, but that “they need to work together.”
“What’s most urgent to us is that the House and the Senate are able to come to an agreement and that the president would sign that allocation of resources as quickly as possible,” said Soerens.
Dona Abbott of Bethany Christian Services, whose president signed on to the letter, explained to CP that her organization believed that the approved bill, among other things, “needs to include services for children” and “to be very specific about children getting basic healthcare needs.”
On Wednesday, World Relief announced that they were encouraging supporters to call their congressmen to “ensure that no child goes without basic necessities while on U.S. soil and that our asylum laws are respected.”
“World Relief’s goal is to drive 5,000 messages to Congress and raise funds for legal aid, church mobilization and family reunification support,” stated the organization.
“Ultimately, many vulnerable asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children, are likely to continue to endure dehumanizing conditions and face a high likelihood of deportation to a situation of danger unless policies change.”
World Relief went on to state that they “believe that local churches throughout the country have a key role in advocating for just and compassionate immigration policies that are consistent with biblical values.”
Earlier this month, The New York Times published a story documenting the disturbing conditions hundreds of migrant children faced at federal detention facilities in the United States.
The Times talked with lawyers who visited an overcrowded immigration detention facility in Texas that housed children without access to basic hygiene products like soap and toothpaste.
“The overwhelming majority of children have not bathed since they crossed the border,” explained lawyer Elora Mukherjee to the Times.
“The children are locked in their cells and cages nearly all day long … A few of the kids said they had some opportunities to go outside and play, but they said they can’t bring themselves to play because they are trying to stay alive in there.”
In response to the outrage, emergency funding bills to help the migrant children have been making their way through both the Senate and House of Representatives.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 84-8 to pass a $4.6 billion emergency spending measure that included aid for migrants as well as more funding for border security.
The bill was sent to the House, whose own emergency bill was recently rejected over claims that it was too partisan and failed to properly fund immigration enforcement.