boy looking through window

— CBP photo by Eduardo Perez

Families and children from around the world, the majority from Central America, continue to arrive at the U.S. southern border to seek safety and hope.  Under the new “zero tolerance” policy, even people showing up at an official port of entry are being treated as if they are trying to sneak into the country.  The increase in people leaving El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in the past 6 years has been recognized as a humanitarian emergency in these home countries, rooted in decades of poverty, failed government policies, broken families, lack of protection for women and children, and violence that continues to plague the region.

Reports from our local church leaders share first hand accounts of families who have been separated by U.S. immigration authorities, the adults placed in one detention system and the children in another with no established communication or tracking between them.  Parents can be moved to a detention center in one state and their children to another.  In other cases, parents are ordered deported back to Mexico while their children are still in U.S. Custody.

Meanwhile, the border is almost closed off to those seeking protection from the U.S.  Border officials tell people that arrive at an official port of entry to seek asylum  (the only proper way to make such a request if you are outside the U.S.) are being told to “come back later.”  Such actions are creating a new humanitarian crisis for our Mexican neighbors.  The scene varies from one border section to another, in one area a large group is visibly waiting while in another, they scatter in search of shelter from the 101F weather. 

On June 20th Executive Order “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation” that further criminalizes migration through the expansion of family detention on military bases and other government property, potentially indefinitely.  The order codifies Attorney General Sessions’ zero-tolerance policy, instructing officials to continue to prosecute adults crossing the border as criminals—including those who are seeking asylum–, “but will seek to find or build facilities that can hold families—parents and children together—instead of separating them while their legal cases are considered by the courts.” The order also seeks to modify the 1997 Flores settlement, a legal agreement that bars the detention of migrant children for more than 20 days.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has been responding in cooperation with mid-councils and congregations along the border, the Office of the General Assembly's Office of Immigration Issues, the Office of Public Witness and our ecumenical and interfaith partners working with refugees and immigrants.  PDA has already begun approving small grants to Presbyteries that are working with local non-profits to help families reunite and to provide “know your rights” orientations to those seeking asylum.  Churches and individuals can help this effort by giving to DR000095 U.S. Refugee Emergencies.

PDA will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to families with basic needs, legal orientations and family reunification assistance even as we advocate for more humane treatment by the US Government.

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In PDA, we see the love of Christ at work through the actions of volunteer work teams, through the ministry of those offering hospitality and helping their communities to recover, and in the lives of survivors. Those who participate in disaster recovery ministry tell their stories as a witness to God’s transformational power. Read
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