BISHOPS in the United States have urged Christians to join protests against President Trump’s immigration policies.
A Democrat Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has described detention centres in which children and adults are being held as “concentration camps”, which has provoked outrage among Republicans.
This week, however, 30 Jewish protesters were arrested at a gathering outside the Elizabeth Detention Centre in New Jersey, where they demanded that the government “close the camps”. Never Again Action, the group that organised the protest, wrote on Facebook: “As Jews, neither our history nor our values will allow us to sit idly by while our neighbours are separated from their families and locked in camps.”
After a visit to one of the detention centres, Ms Cortez described how women had to drink from lavatories as they were kept in overcrowded cells with no drinking water. Other reports have emerged this week of children being detained in filthy buildings without access to soap, clean clothes, or adequate food.
President Trump has promised to deport millions of people who, he says, are living in the US illegally. Raids to round up migrants were due to start last week, but the President later said that he would hold off for two weeks, to give Congress time to reach a resolution to what he described as “loophole problems” at the border.
The Bishop of Chicago, the Rt Revd Jeffrey Lee, has written to his diocese encouraging people to write to their Senators in protest.
He wrote: “For the past several years, as federal immigration policy has become harsher, deportations have increased; and families, including Episcopalians in our own congregations here in the Diocese of Chicago, have lived in unprecedented fear.
“This news of new raids and mass deportations threatens to make these fears real as families are torn apart and members of our communities and congregations are wrenched away from lives they have labored for years to build. Coupled with recent reports of inhumane and even deadly conditions in shelters for migrants on our southern border, the threat of these raids makes it difficult not to conclude that our immigration system is failing to operate with common humanity or to embody the highest values of our country or its people.”
The Bishop of Arizona, the Rt Revd Jennifer Reddall, has demanded a meeting with Senators. In an open letter released last week, she said: “I write to express my strongest possible opposition to the holding of migrant children in filthy conditions. . . The reports of the conditions in which migrant children are being held, some of whom are legally claiming asylum, require my public response because of those vows.”
Parish churches are also joining the protest. The Rector of All Saints’, Pasadena, in California, the Revd Mike Kinman, has offered his church as a sanctuary for any migrants facing deportation.
He said: “We have always stood for love over fear, reconciliation over division, and restoration over retribution. As such, we call on President Trump, as president of a nation largely populated by immigrants and descendants of immigrants like himself, to stand down these raids.”