Evangelical leaders are “deeply troubled” by the way the US government is treating children and families seeking asylum on the southern border, and say Christian faith demands that the White House and Congress do better.
In a June 27 letter to president Donald Trump, vice president Mike Pence, House speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, members of the Evangelical Immigration Table, a group devoted to living out Biblical principles, wrote:
As evangelical Christians, we believe that all people–regardless of their country of origin or legal status–are made in the image of God and should be treated with dignity and respect. Overcrowded and unsanitary conditions are inappropriate for anyone in detention, but particularly for children, who are uniquely vulnerable. Jesus reserves some of his strongest words of judgment for those who subject children to harm.
The group said it was “grateful for the many Customs and Border Protection officials charged with protecting the nation and apprehending those who have entered the country without authorization,” and appreciates all government officials trying to deal with the situation. However, they added, “respect for the law also compels us to insist that our government abide by US laws and binding legal agreements that ensure protection for those fleeing persecution and particularly for children.”
That includes due process for anyone seeking asylum, no matter how they came to the US, and requires that children be held in the least restrictive environment possible, and be transferred to Health and Human Services within 72 hours, they wrote.
Children crossing the US border in recent weeks have been separated from their families and kept in subhuman conditions for days at a time, according to reports from immigration activists and journalists. In recent testimony, one teenage girl described having all of her family’s belongings taken, including baby clothing and bottles, and being denied soap, showers, and toothbrushes for days.
White Evangelical Christians are more supportive of Trump than any other religious group in the US. However, harrowing reports of abuses on the border have created concern throughout the religious community, church leaders told reporters during a conference call. “I think we’re all on the same page that kids should not be in these conditions,” said Matthew Soerens, the national coordinator for the Biblical group.
The group is also asking the White House to make it possible for migrants to leave US custody for churches who would like to clothe and house them, members said. “There are churches throughout the US that are eager to accept asylum families and care for them,” Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said on the call.
“We can not treat people this way,” Jo Anne Lyon, Global Ambassador for the Wesleyan Church, added. “These are people in the image of God, with the breath of God in them.”