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(Washington, D.C.) September 4, 2014 — Jesuit Fr Timothy Kesicki, President of the Jesuit Conference of the United States and a long-time board member of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, joined 39 other national religious leaders in delivery of a succinct, one-sentence message to President Barack Obama urging him not to compromise the lives of children fleeing violence in Central America as the Administration considers its next steps on immigration.

With new reports of Honduran children being killed following their deportation from the US and Mexico, this incredibly short message underscores the critical importance of protecting children and families seeking safety. The full letter reads:

While we celebrate the potential of executive action to alleviate the suffering caused by our nation’s broken immigration system – particularly in light of political inaction in Congress – it must not come at the cost of due process and access to humanitarian protection for children and families fleeing violence in Central America.

Following the sending of the letter, national leaders spoke on a press teleconference to stress the urgency of their message and why the Administration must not compromise on critical protections for children in any executive actions.

"The reason the faith community is particularly concerned about negative action from the Administration is because President Obama’s first intervention in this policy debate was to ask Congress in June to roll back critical protections for unaccompanied children,” said Shaina Aber, Policy Director for the Jesuit Conference. “We're already seeing kids put on rocket dockets, expanded family detention, and other actions that undermine due process. These kids are not a problem to solve, but have been entrusted to our care to be protected."

"Our unique and diverse voices — Protestants, Evangelicals, Catholics, Muslims, Jews — are united in sending a clear message on immigration to the President: Don’t trade the lives of kids. Central American children and families are fleeing for their lives,” said Rev. John L. McCullough, the President and CEO of Church World Service. “As a father, I can’t imagine the pain and burden that parents feel as they make the difficult decision to send their children away – because they know they will be safer on the journey despite how dangerous it is."

"Given the failure of Congress, we have a broken immigration system that needs to be addressed as much as possible administratively, but we shouldn't make trade-offs. These are two different realities: refugees fleeing for their lives and the undocumented in our nation who are contributing to our society. Both need to be protected. Both need the President's action. The best would be for Congress to act, but absent this, the President needs to provide the leadership,” said Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, the Executive Director of NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby.

Rev. Jim Wallis, the President of Sojourners added, "Jesus said 'Suffer the little children to come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' Children should be the metric of our politics and they haven’t been in an immigration debate that has become increasingly politicized. President Obama knows that in God’s eyes borders matter much less than children. Changing laws that enjoy bipartisan support and have proven effective in protecting kids being trafficked is something that cannot be tolerated."

Nancy Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, noted, “As people with a long history of being rejected in times of crisis from many lands, we know how devastating such rejection can be. When the doors of almost every country (including the US) were closed to us in the 1940s we lost millions of our people. The most vivid reminder of that time was when hundreds of people on the St. Louis ship were turned away from our shores and sent back to Europe where the result was certain death. Every Passover we tell the story of liberation and remember when we were strangers in a strange land. This history and our biblical mandate to welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, and feed the hungry makes us forceful advocates for assisting children and families at the border.”

Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), shared, "A detention center is no place for a child. As a nation, we have historically protected and offered due process to children who have endured such horrific conditions, and have united them with family members to promote healing as they await the opportunity for a judge to hear their case and story."

"There is no reason our government cannot come up with a process that ensures that children who arrive at our borders receive proper care and are not returned to countries where they face the risk of serious harm,” said Melanie Nezer, the VP of Advocacy and Policy for HIAS. “In dealing with the surge of migrants at our border, we call on our leaders to respect the core American values that people should not be returned to countries where they face persecution, children should be protected, and families should be together."

List of signatories:

Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO, Church World Service
Rev. David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World
Very Rev. Timothy P. Kesicki, S.J., President, Jesuit Conference of the United States
Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches
Nancy K. Kaufman, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women
Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disiples of Christ)
The Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Mark Hetfield, President and CEO, HIAS
Bishop Minerva Carcaño, Los Angeles Resident Bishop, United Methodist Church
Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ 
Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary, United Methodist Board of Church and Society
Jim Wallis, President, Sojourners 
Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, Founder & President, Uri L’Tzedek, Jewish Orthodox Social Justice
Linda Hartke, President and CEO, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director, African American Ministers In Action
Rev. Jim Winkler, General Secretary, National Council of Churches
Jared Feldman, Vice President and Washington Director, Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Sister Patt McDermott, RSM, President, Institute of the Sisters of Mercy
Sister Janet Mock, CSJ, Executive Director, Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO, Faith in Public Life
Very Rev. James Greenfield, OSFS, President, Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Rev. Paula Clayton Dempsey, Director of Partnership Relations, Alliance of Baptists
Sister Margaret Magee, OSF, President, Franciscan Action Network
Sister Louise Gallahue, DC, Provincial, Daughters of Charity
Imam Abdullah T. Antepli, Founder, Muslim Chaplains Association
Rev. Tim Mulroy, SSC, U.S.A Regional Director, Missionary Society of St. Columban
Sr. Patricia Chappell, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA
Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, Moderator, Mennonite Church USA
J Ron Byler, U.S. Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee 
Bishop Fred W. Washington, Jurisdictional Prelate Minnesota Ecclesiastical, Jurisdiction, Church of God in Christ
Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary, Church of the Brethren
Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin, Former General Secretary, National Council of Churches
Alexander D. Baumgarten, Director of Government Relations, The Episcopal Church 
Katharine Henderson, President, Auburn Seminary
Rob Rutland-Brown, Executive Director, National Justice for Our Neighbors
Sara Dwyer, ASC, Office of Justice and Peace Coordinator, Adorers of the Blood of Christ, U.S. Region
Rev. Donald H. Ashmall, Council Minister, International Council of Community Churches
Linda Jaramillo, Executive Minister, Justice & Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ
Rev. Dr. Dale E. Luffman, Ecumenical & Interfaith Officer, Community of Christ
Rev. Dr. Ron Degges, President, Disciples Home Missions

For more information: Sidney Traynham, straynham@cwsglobal.org, 703-909-6934


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