Washington, DC – Today, nine hundred spiritual leaders and multiple faith-based and immigrant rights groups delivered a letter to the White House urging the Biden administration to immediately halt all efforts to expand immigrant detention. With the one-year anniversary of President Biden’s inauguration approaching, the signatories – including Church World Service, Detention Watch Network, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, UCC National Collaborative on Immigration, and members of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition – expressed deep disappointment in the president for failing to keep his early promises to phase out private detention contracts.
In the letter, advocates highlight two immigrant detention facilities in Pennsylvania: the reopening of Moshannon Valley Correctional Center as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center and the expansion of the Berks County ICE detention center into an adult facility for women. These expansions take place as COVID-19 continues to surge across the country, underscoring the urgent need to free people from the harms of detention immediately. The letter signatories urged the Biden administration to reverse course and invest in community-based alternatives to detention and restore access to asylum.
Elissa Diaz, Advocacy Manager at Church World Service and Co-Chair of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, said: “The values of President Biden’s faith tradition are common across faith traditions represented in the Interfaith Immigration Coalition: to welcome the immigrant in our midst, to love our neighbors, and to proclaim freedom for the oppressed. President Biden’s decision to expand immigrant detention not only goes against these values of our faith, but also the promises he made to immigrants just one year ago. We urge the President to reverse course, return to the core callings of his faith, and put an end to his efforts to expand immigrant detention.”
Rev. Deborah Lee, Executive Director, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, said: “One common theme in our diverse religious traditions is the value of human freedom: the right to live freely, to not face deprivation of movement and confinement. Immigration detention is not morally acceptable or necessary in any form. We know effective community based alternatives to detention exist. People can navigate their immigration proceedings while living at home, maintaining their employment, and receiving support from their family and wider community. We ask the administration to stand with the faith community to find ways to reduce all forms of captivity in favor of non-carceral solutions.”
Marcela Hernandez, Organizing Director of Detention Watch Network, said: “Biden’s continued actions to expand the immigration detention system despite the administration’s ongoing promises to end the use of for-profit detention and roll back ICE’s fundamentally flawed system is shameful. Detention centers represent abuse, trauma, and sometimes death. People are losing their lives to a detention system that simply does not need to exist. The Biden Administration must shut down immigration detention facilities, end detention contracts, and release people from detention immediately.”