1. Update
  2. Immigrants & Refugees

No Place [to Call] Home for the Holidays

By Hannah Graf Evans, December 18, 2014


Last week, members of Congress finished the pertinent business to avoid a government shutdown, packed their bags and headed home for an extended winter break - but as I prepare to do the same, I am paralyzed by the thought of the refugee women and children who are spending this season unnecessarily locked up in family detention centers.

Last week, members of Congress finished the pertinent business to avoid a government shutdown, packed their bags and headed home for an extended winter break - but as I prepare to do the same, I am paralyzed by the thought of the refugee women and children who are spending this season unnecessarily locked up in family detention centers.

President Obama’s executive action announcement on immigration proved a mixed bag. While his announcement allowed many deserving families to breathe a (temporary) sigh of relief, President Obama also further entrenched the detention of women and children asylum seekers, citing his commitment to “securing” the border. Instead of remedying the injustice of family detention, on December 15th the administration opened a new 2,400-bed family detention facility, operated by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America. The private prison company opened the doors in Dilley, TX just in time to move families in for Christmas.

These are families who are in limbo with their court proceedings, still waiting for relief from the fear of being deported back into immediate danger and - worst of all - being treated like criminals even though they have been designated as asylum seekers by our legal system.

Our government officials need a few reminders:

First, our border has never been more secure than it was this summer; these_asylum seekers_ were turning themselves into border agents, pursuing due process, not “illegally sneaking in”.

Second, their presence here as asylum seekers is a right afforded to them by international and US law.

Third, it is reprehensible for our country to detain anyone as a deterrent for others – especially when the detained are women and children asylum seekers. It is also illegal.

As we rejoice in this holy time, let us not forget those who have no place to call home for the holidays. Many of these women and children have family or community members who would have housed them, helped them get to their future court proceedings and served as a refuge for children with little joy in this season. Our faith partners at Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Services have tried to make the best of an abysmal situation, providing small tokens of hope for children and mothers in an otherwise traumatic nightmare – but we all need to pitch in to solve the problem.

Together, we must not forget these families; we must keep them in our thoughts and prayers. I will be actively holding them in the Light as I head home. When Congress, the Administration and the President return we must demand that they afford these asylum seekers their rightful due process. It is past due time to treat these families with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Hannah Graf Evans

  • Former Legislative Representative, Immigration and Refugee Policy

Hannah Graf Evans led FCNL's lobbying for compassionate immigration and refugee policies, with a particular focus on detention practices, the rights of border communities, and protection of vulnerable communities. Hannah served as co-chair of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition steering committee for three years.