|Places of worship must remain safe and sacred spaces where all families can engage in their respective faith traditions without fear of harassment or monitoring by immigration officials.|
(Washington, D.C.) January 29, 2016 — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA has joined more than 90 faith-based organizations and faith leaders in calling on President Obama to immediately halt Department of Home Security raids aimed at rounding up Central American asylum-seeking families and deporting them back to the danger they have been seeking to escape.JRS/USA and the other groups, in a letter to the president, say they are particularly concerned that DHS is conducting raids at sensitive locations like places of worship, schools, health clinics and hospitals. The group is asking the president for assurance that places of worship remain free of DHS immigration enforcement activities. "As leaders of faith, we have witnessed first-hand the deep anxieties these tactics have sparked in communities of immigrants across our nation, particularly as word of the arrest of young children and parents has spread throughout the community,” the letter says. “The administration’s actions are sowing fear and trauma. Our faith communities are unanimous in the view that these raids must end.”
The group says immigrant communities have been adversely impacted by the behavior of DHS employees who have “over-stepped the bounds of decency” by targeting churches and temples, schools and mosques, domestic violence shelters, emergency healthcare clinics and hospitals with immigration enforcement actions."The recent raids have paralyzed communities who fear sending their children to school, to taking them for immunizations at clinics, attending worship services, and even putting them to bed at night,” the letter says. “No one is made safer when communities fear Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. These invasive actions and the fear they have caused must end.” Historically, and throughout the pages of Scripture, places of worship have been places of refuge for communities experiencing harassment or danger from society-at-large. Places of worship provide safety for people who feel threatened by policies or actions by the state that would harm their families and significantly disrupt their lives.
Regarding places of worship as places of sanctuary also allows the rest of society to pause and reflect on these policies and their implementation and to seek more humane policies that truly protect all of society, including those experiencing persecution.“We fully expect DHS to respect this important and historic boundary and to not enter our places of worship seeking to detain or deport immigrants or harass our parishioners at or on their way to worship or on their way home from worship,” the groups say. "Places of worship must remain safe and sacred spaces where all families can engage in their respective faith traditions without fear of harassment or monitoring by immigration officials."