During the summer of 2014, more families from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador arrived in the United States than in any other year. Though most these families were seeking protection, our government’s response was to engage in contracts with private prison companies and to increase the country’s family detention bed capacity from 85 to 4,000.
The number of Central American asylum-seekers arriving in the U.S. decreased in 2015 but then rose again in 2016. Despite litigation and advocacy for better treatment in the U.S., our government still detains families, expedites their removals and often attempts, through legislation, to erode established basic humanitarian protections within law and policy.
This treatment is justified in rhetoric that starts the stories of asylum-seekers at their arrival at the U.S border. The following resources attempt to begin the story where it should begin. Not at the U.S. border but in homes, business, and schools in the Northern Triangle of Central America, where families and individuals try but find they cannot stay in the birthplace they know and love.
“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not revealed, or hidden that will not be known.”Matthew 10:26
Use the Reflection Guide as a tool to walk through the content in the storymap and the film, Genesis of Exodus, to deepen your understanding of the issue and help frame a response.
Find below a list of resources:
Educational: Uncovering the truth
- Root Causes of migration from Central America:
- Enforcement at the Mexico-Guatemala Border:
- Arrival in the U.S.:
- Our film, Families Held Captive
- Legal challenges to detention:
- Learn more about the legal challenges to family detention in Flores v. Johnson here
- Read Articles 31-33 of the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees to understand why this practice is in violation of international agreements about the treatment of refugees.
- Lack of Counsel:
- Women and children who are released from family detention still must appear at a deportation hearing. The proof and legal theories behind their claim to stay in the U.S. are complex and they are not guaranteed a lawyer at this hearing. Court records show that less than 30 percent of families have representation in court. Without an attorney, families are prevailing on their claim for protection in only 1.5 percent of cases. With an attorney, the rate increases to 26.3 percent.
“Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So, they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.” Mark 6:39-4
Organizing to Respond: The Few become Many
- Worship resources
- Christian Prayer of Solidarity (PDF) (Interfaith Immigration Coalition)
- Pastor’s Toolkit (PDF): How do we talk about the children and families who are fleeing violence in Central America? (Interfaith Immigration Coalition)
- “The Children Come” A hymn by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
- “Jesus Entered Egypt,” A hymn by Adam M. L. Tice and Ralph Vaughan Williams, Glory to God, p. 154
- Finding community partners: look within your community for partners in the support of and advocacy for newly arrived asylum-seekers. Support and partnerships can be found everywhere.
- Lawyers: Everyone needs an attorney to help them through the removal process. The government will not provide one and the presence of an attorney can make the difference between deportation and the grant of asylum or other protections. Find out who the nonprofit removal defense lawyers are in your region and get to know them and be ready to make referrals or to host them at a legal clinic at your church.Many families will need other forms of legal assistance, whether they need help in family court, or with custody and power of attorney documents as they prepare for possible deportation, know your local legal aid office and who you can call upon when assistance is needed.Finally, know your local American Immigration Lawyers Association and American Civil Liberties Union chapters. They can be a source for legal referrals and know your rights presentations as well.
- Disaster Assistance Resources: advice and Grants through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
- Teachers: teachers, school staff and classmates are often the first people to get to know asylum-seeking families and children. They are organized and care deeply about the children in their classrooms.
- Ecumenical and Interfaith Partnerships
- Civic and Business leaders
- Social Service Agencies
- Anti-racism organizations: anti-racism organizations recognize that the same rhetoric and systems used to marginalize communities of color are used against migrants as well and are often ready to oppose those systems together.
- Migrant led advocacy and community organizations.
- Doctors and mental health providers: doctors and mental health providers who treat children care about their whole well-being and will organize on behalf of families when they view that systems are mistreating them.
“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:15-17
Ways to Respond: Faith in Action
- Transitional ministries: Temporary Shelter, Backpack, Bus Station
- Welcoming Ministries: ESL, Legal Clinics, Know Your Rights, Sponsoring Legal Representation, School Enrollment, Social Services
- Accompaniment: to Court, to ICE appointment
- Locally: Taking accompaniment to the streets, using online petitions, changing the conversation. Considering, again, all your partners
- Nationally: supporting good bills, opposing bad bills, visiting Congressional Offices
- Sanctuary: more information here.
- Rapid Response to Raids: report a raid when it is happening through United We Dream. Take photos or video. Keep notes of badge numbers, numbers of agents, who was taken and when. Call: 1-844-363-1423.
“What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.” Matthew 10:27