Last week, 58 faith-based organizations and 189 faith leaders sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) expressing shock and outrage about ICE’s decision to eliminate the presumption of release for pregnant women from immigrant detention, except in extraordinary circumstances. ICE also removed oversight and accountability requirements surrounding the treatment of detained pregnant women.
Faith leaders and groups across traditions expressed their deep concern about detention conditions, including lack of adequate prenatal and healthcare, reports of medical negligence, and unsafe, stressful conditions for mother and baby. Together, they urged ICE to restore its directive of presumptive release for pregnant immigrant women and develop compassionate systems to ensure that pregnant women can access quality healthcare and are not placed in positions of undue stress.
Sister Marie Lucey, Franciscan Action Network: “We are deeply troubled by the cruel ICE directive which eliminates the presumption that ICE should not detain pregnant women except in extraordinary circumstances, and also removes some requirements regarding treatment of pregnant women in detention. Not only our religious faith, but our belief in basic human rights of all people, requires us to challenge this inhumane directive which endangers the lives of vulnerable pregnant women. We call on ICE to restore its August, 2016 Memo on the Identification and Monitoring of Pregnant Detainees with presumption of release.”
Lawrence E. Couch, Director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd: “Respect for life and the dignity of the human person are foundational to our Catholic faith and also to the U.S. Constitution. We have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness according to the Declaration of Independence. There is no reference to borders or papers. Our foundations will crumble if we withdraw our compassion for the other. Nothing exemplifies this more than the unnecessary detention of pregnant women.”
Diane Randall, Executive Secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers): “The administration is choosing to detain and traumatize pregnant women, rather than opt for non restrictive options where a woman can have unimpeded access to healthcare, legal services, and agency over her well-being throughout the duration of her pregnancy. For Quakers, this is about how we treat and answer to ‘that of God’ in every individual. Immigrant detention based on lack of papers is unnecessary and overused. This practice not only puts more vulnerable people at risk, it also further pads the pockets of private prison companies and swells the disproportionate incarceration of immigrants and people of color in this nation. Our elected officials are choosing this detention rather than focusing their efforts on building sound policies that protect the dignity of every individual. This is an immoral decision and the administration can and should reverse this practice immediately.”
The Rev. John L. McCollough, President and CEO of CWS: “The decision to detain pregnant women is morally wrong and stands in stark contrast to the values we hold as people of faith. The story of the pregnancy of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is granted the utmost respect in our faith traditions. Mothers today are no different, and should not be detained, putting their own lives, as well as the lives of their unborn children, in danger. We urge ICE to reverse this despicable policy and offer pregnant women the dignity they deserve.”
Sandy Sorensen, Director, Washington Office United Church of Christ: “We believe in the dignity and humanity of every person, each one a reflection of the image of God. The decision by the Administration to detain pregnant women, subjecting them to humiliation, extreme conditions and undue stress is not only outside the bounds of humanitarian treatment but also puts the health and safety of women and their babies at risk. And there is still more at risk: our nation’s soul and our moral standing in the global community. But it is not too late – we urge ICE to reverse their decision and instead institute thoughtful and compassionate policies that consider the safety, dignity and worth of each person.”
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice: “The United States is a nation based on family, which includes a commitment to care for pregnant women and their children. Yet, ICE made the dangerous decision to hold pregnant women in detention centers with substandard health facilities, risking the lives of both mother and child. This Trump policy is a rejection of a pro-life stance and must be changed.”
The full text of the letter can be found here.