Nearly 300 clergy members across the Philadelphia area have signed a letter protesting recent “ICE raids” — a series of actions by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to deport Central American immigrants living in America without legal permission.
The letter was first reported by Al Dîa, which said 121 immigrants had been netted in the raids since around Christmastime.
Obama Administration officials have defended the raids.
“All of those arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) this past weekend were adults and their children who were apprehended after May 1, 2014, while illegally crossing the southern border,” an unidentified official told CNN earlier this month. “All have been issued final orders of removal by an immigration court, and those who were removed have exhausted appropriate legal remedies, and have no outstanding appeal or claim for asylum or other humanitarian relief under our laws.”
But in the letter, the clergy collectively called the forced deportations “unconscionable.”
“Pennsylvania benefits greatly from the presence of hundreds of thousands of immigrants in our state” they wrote. “Immigrant communities have revitalized our cities and towns; brought values of hard work, faith and family; and support critical sectors of our economy.”
Read the full letter, sponsored by the New Santuary Movement of Philadelpia, below:
Dear President Obama, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, ICE Director Sarah Saldana, and Pennsylvania ICE Field Office Director Thomas Decker,
We, the undersigned clergy, faith leaders, and women religious in Pennsylvania, urge you to immediately stop the ICE raids targeting Central American families seeking asylum that began on January 2, 2016.
In the face of international refugee crises with thousands of families fleeing violence and extreme poverty, our diverse faiths call us to react with compassion and work to enact just policies that reflect our shared faith values of justice, dignity, and hospitality for all, regardless of immigration status and country of origin. Our shared faith teachings call us to welcome immigrants into our communities.
In Matthew 25:35 in the Christian Bible, Jesus says “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” The Muslim Qu’ran states “Was not the earth of God spacious enough for you to flee for refuge?” (4:97). The Jewish Torah says “The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34).
Deporting families to potential death in Central America is an unconscionable act that violates these sacred values.
We know that Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are among the most dangerous countries in the world. As faith leaders, we see the trauma inflicted on families and communities when a loved one is deported. Immigrants are our congregants, neighbors, families, and friends. We believe that we are all made in the image of God, including Central American refugees and call for policies that reflect the Godliness present in all of us.
The heightened fear because of the unjust ICE raids has resulted in immigrant workers not going to their jobs, children not going to school, and patients not seeking medical treatment. This has a domino effect across our state: Pennsylvania benefits greatly from the presence of hundreds of thousands of immigrants in our state. Immigrant communities have revitalized our cities and towns; brought values of hard work, faith and family; and support critical sectors of our economy.
In the face of a humanitarian crisis, we urge you to act with moral courage to stop the raids and mass deportations, address the root causes of migration, and welcome our immigrant brothers and sisters in a way that is consistent with our faith values.
As Pennsylvania clergy, we are united against the ICE raids and urge you to immediately stop this traumatizing practice. We work and pray for more just and humane policies that keep families together and decreases the violence rampant in Central America and across the globe.
See the full list of signees here.