By Bishop Jose Garcia
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has begun to release women and children who had been seeking asylum or other relief in the United States from immigrant detention centers.
Most of the women and children at the detention centers came to the U.S. during last year’s influx of immigrants from Central America.
While a positive development, this decision also highlights the need for reform of our immigration system.
The United States currently lacks comprehensive immigration reform. In 2013, the Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill. However, the House did not bring the bill up for a vote. During the last two years, there has been no further votes on a comprehensive immigration bill.
However, the issue of immigration reform has recently been thrusted into the spotlight due in large part to the 2016 presidential race. There may be an opportunity to finally see movement on the immigration front in this country.
That would be welcomed news given the harrowing experiences these women and children have endured. When women and children, who are escaping from hunger, extreme poverty, domestic violence, human trafficking, oppression, and gang violence, are placed in family detention centers, that are pits who trample over these very vulnerable ones, this cannot be called justice.
When addressing the issue of immigration, the root causes reveal that there has been a perfect storm where the structures that should facilitate education, job opportunities, adequate housing, health, and food at the table of families and individuals, are limited in their work because of the sin of greed, oppression, abuse of power, corruption, selfish interests and apathy that works against the “least of these.”
However, the church can be a prophetic voice that calls for those in authority to exercise their responsibility to seek the well-being of their marginalized citizens, “defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor” (Psalm 72:4). The word of God is clear that when stomping down on luckless prisoners, and when the least of these are deprived of their rights and dignity as men and women created in God’s image, and they are refused justice, God will notice and will deal with them (Lamentation 3:34-36 and Matthew 25:31-46).
We applaud the Obama administration’s decision to revisit the family detention policies. This is a first good step.
Please join Bread for the World’s advocacy efforts by asking your U.S. senator and U.S. representatives to support a fair and comprehensive immigration reform.
Bishop Jose Garcia is the director of church relations at Bread for the World.