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ELCA presiding bishop, faith leaders issue statement on children in detention


CHICAGO – The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has convened ELCA ecumenical and inter-religious partners in a statement addressing concerns over the well-being of children who cross the U.S. border seeking safety from danger and threats in their home countries.

The statement follows:

"For the Lord your God is God of gods ... who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger..." (Deuteronomy 10:17-19). 

"Do not let the hatred of people prevent you from being just. Be just …" (Qur'an 5:8). 

Children coming to our nation for safety and protection are dying at our southern border while in U.S. detention. As U.S. religious leaders representing diverse faith perspectives, we are united in our concern for the well-being of vulnerable migrants who cross our borders fleeing from danger and threats to their lives. 

A year ago we spoke out against the separation of families. Now we come together again to express our collective outrage and pain over the tragic loss of precious children, made in the image of the Divine. Carlos, a 16-year-old from Guatemala, died May 20 in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Wilmer, a 2-year-old, died May 14, also in the custody of CBP. They were preceded in death by JackelinFelipeJuan and a 10-year-old girl from El Salvador whose death in September 2018 has just been disclosed. We remember them before God, pray for their grieving families to be comforted and commit ourselves to work for the humane treatment of all who present themselves for asylum at our border.

Our houses of worship and agencies have welcomed, engaged and served many migrant families that have recently arrived in the U.S. These migrants have left their communities to provide safety for their children and protect them from harm. Sadly, as a nation we have denied them safety, instead of placing them in detention facilities, sometimes long after the mandated 72-hour limit. Many detention centers are overcrowded and lack sanitation, further elevating the risk of serious health issues for migrants already stressed and weakened by their journeys.

We believe our nation and its leaders have both the moral and legal responsibility on behalf of those who seek safety in our land. The U.S. has an international legal obligation to do so by virtue of having acceded to the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees and, therefore, must implement those duties in good faith. It also has an obligation to do so under its own domestic law, and executive orders should not attempt to set aside these legal responsibilities. The duty not to return a person to a state where they may face torture or other serious harms is absolute under the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which the U.S. has signed and ratified.

We urge the Administration to maintain its commitment to international law and defend human rights by implementing safeguards to ensure the safety and health of all of those seeking protection in our land, especially those children who fall under our care. 


The Rev. Eddy Alemán
General Secretary
Reformed Church in America


Mr. Azhar Azeez
Director, Fund Development
Islamic Relief USA


Senior Bishop George E. Battle, Jr.
Presiding Prelate, Piedmont Episcopal District
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church


Bishop H. Kenneth Carter, Jr.
President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church


The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop
Episcopal Church (United States)


The Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer
General Minister & President
United Church of Christ


The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton

Presiding Bishop

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


 Mr. Glen Guyton
Executive Director
Mennonite Church USA


The Rev. Teresa Hord Owens
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)


Rabbi Rick Jacobs
Union for Reform Judaism


Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton
Churches Uniting in Christ


Mr. Anwar Khan
Islamic Relief USA


The Rev. Carlos Malavế
Executive Director
Christian Churches Together


The Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller
President, Provincial Elders' Conference
Moravian Church Northern Province


The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk
General Assembly of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)


Rabbi Jonah Pesner
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism


Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick III
Presiding Bishop, The Eighth Episcopal District
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church


Bishop Frank Madison Reid III
Bishop, Ecumenical & Urban Affairs
African Methodist Episcopal Church


Dr. Sayyid Syeed
Islamic Society of North America


The Rev. Phil Tom
Executive Director
International Council of Community Churches


Mr. Jim Winkler
General Secretary & President
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

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