***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***
June 27, 2018
World Relief Thankful for Court Decision to Reunite Separated Families
Baltimore, MD – Last night, a federal judge issued an injunction requiring the federal government to reunite immigrant children separated from their parents, mandating a specific timeline for reunification. World Relief, which has been advocating for these children and against policies separating families, is heartened by this decision.
In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy at the U.S.-Mexico border, removing discretion from federal prosecutors in determining when to file charges for the misdemeanor offense of improper entry to the country. The effect was to exacerbate a situation that was already happening on a smaller scale, separating children from their parents even among families lawfully requesting asylum protections from violence in their countries of origin. President Trump issued an Executive Order last week purporting to end family separation policies, but the order did not require the thousands of children who had already been separated to be expeditiously reunited to their parents, nor did it reverse the underlying zero tolerance policy.
Last night’s injunction by U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw, an appointee of President George W. Bush, requires these children to be reunited to their parents on a specific timeframe: within fourteen days for children under age five and within thirty days for all other children. It restricts the administration from further separating children from parents except in cases where a parent is found to be unfit.
“We’ve been focused for weeks on the wellbeing of these children,” said World Relief president Scott Arbeiter. “Children belong with their parents. God has instituted the family unit, and what he has joined together, governments should not separate. We’re grateful for this decision from Judge Sabraw and pray it will be executed quickly. At the same time, we continue to do all we can to advocate for these families and to serve them however we can.”
After the zero tolerance policy was announced, World Relief signed onto and helped to coordinate a letter from the leaders of the Evangelical Immigration Table to President Trump, urging the reunification of families and an end to the underlying zero tolerance policy. Since that letter was initially sent earlier this month, it has been signed by more than 12,000 people, more than 1,000 of whom are local church pastors.
To continue to raise attention about the plight of these children, World Relief also sent staff to the border in Tornillo, Texas, last week and hosted a Facebook Live conversation. The organization has worked with local churches in various communities for decades to provide affordable, authorized immigration legal services to immigrant families. Responding to the plight of the families separated at the border, World Relief has also launched a fundraising effort to cover the expenses of sending some of its staff attorneys and other legal professionals to the border to help wherever they can as well as to support ongoing advocacy and other immigration legal services for immigrant families.
“It’s still urgent that we advocate with our elected officials to protect these children,” noted Matthew Soerens, World Relief’s U.S. Director of Church Mobilization and the coauthor of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate. “Last night’s court decision, while an answer to many prayers from Christians throughout the country, could be reversed by a higher court. It’s also not clear if the underlying ‘zero tolerance’ policy is still in effect or not, with conflicting information coming from different parts of the federal government. And the solution proposed by the administration and by some in Congress to keep families together—to do so by amending existing law to allow for children to be indefinitely detained with their parents—is not in the best interest of these children, especially since there are more effective, humane and affordable alternatives to detention.”
“As a Christian organization motivated by the biblical calls to welcome the stranger and to respect the unity of families, we will not rest or stop speaking up until these children are safely back with their families,” said Tim Breene, World Relief CEO.
World Relief is a global humanitarian relief and development organization that stands with the vulnerable and partners with local churches to end the cycle of suffering, transform lives and build sustainable communities. With over 70 years of experience, World Relief works in 20 countries worldwide through disaster response, health and child development, economic development and peacebuilding and has offices in the United States that specialize in refugee and immigration services. Learn more at worldrelief.org.