Mass Incarceration is Not the Solution to Family Separation

Along with hundreds of secular and faith-based organizations throughout the United States, the St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America (IFCLA) stands firmly in opposition to the latest prevention-through-deterrence tactics used along the U.S.-Mexico border. It is wrong to separate and detain families. It is wrong to put children in cages, jails, tents, or "tender age" shelters. These recent policy changes are shocking, appalling, and morally reprehensible — but if we are surprised, it is only because we have not been paying attention.

Since the early 1990s, the U.S. government has implemented a variety of prevention through deterrence policies along the Southern border. These kinds of policies have led to the exponential increase of death and disappearance among immigrants and increased the profits for the corporations and individuals that benefit from this extensive militarization and the criminalization and mass incarceration of our families. Prevention through deterrence has always failed to significantly impact migrant flows and has continuously succeeded in shattering our values. The new "zero tolerance" policy criminalizes all migrants, tears children away from their parents, and insists on sending asylum-seekers and all immigrants to jail upon their arrival to the U.S.-Mexico border. The implementation of this policy has already been devastating, resulting in death, violence, and immeasurable trauma to thousands of immigrants.

The executive order signed by President Trump on Wednesday is not a solution to this crisis. Ordering that families be caged together is an inadequate and immoral response to the demands to stop caging children. Mass incarceration is not the solution to family separation. We oppose the Administration's attempt to overturn the Flores settlement, which limits child detention and provides other critical safeguards, and we strongly oppose the harmful anti-immigrant legislation proposed by Representative Bob Goodlatte, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senator Ted Cruz. We will continue to oppose these and all attempts to criminalize communities of color, and we will continue our efforts to defund and dismantle the already massive, unaccountable, and deadly immigrant detention system.

These are matters of grave moral concern. Many of the families and individuals who have arrived to our borders seeking asylum or pursuing a better life have made tough decisions to leave dangerous places. We must not forget that these conditions — pervasive violence, rampant poverty, and, often, the threat of death — are the direct results of decades of dangerous U.S. policy and intervention in Latin America. We are resolved in our belief that every person has the right to move and live freely, in community and with their family, without fear of being separated from their loved ones or displaced from their home.

We support clean legislation that honors the dignity of all. We support laws and policies that keep dignity first, demonstrate an understanding of the root causes of migration, and seek to end the criminalization of communities of color.

We strongly encourage all members of our community to take action. Everyone has a role to play in the struggle for justice: yours may be talking to friends or family members to share knowledge or personal experiences, signing a petition, or calling your elected officials; maybe you're ready to demonstrate publicly in the streets of St. Louis or travel to the border to support advocacy efforts. Whatever you are personally called to do, please, listen to the calling and act swiftly for dignity, love and justice.

Please explore our End Family Detention page in order to find out more about this injustice and what you can do about it. To join with others who share your concerns and to find out more about the work IFCLA does, we invite you to attend our next general monthly meeting on Monday, July 23, at 6:30 p.m. in our office.