September 5, 2014 — Jesuit Father Timothy Kesicki, president of the U.S. Jesuit Conference and a board member of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, joined 39 other national religious leaders in delivering a succinct, one-sentence letter to President Barack Obama.
The full text of the letter said: While we celebrate the potential of executive action to alleviate the suffering caused by our nation’s broken immigration system — particularly in light of political inaction in Congress — it must not come at the cost of due process and access to humanitarian protection for children and families fleeing violence in Central America.
With new reports of Honduran children being killed following their deportation from the U.S. and Mexico, the message underscores the critical importance of protecting children and families seeking safety.
After the letter was sent on Sept. 2, national leaders spoke on a press teleconference to stress the urgency of their message and underscore why the administration must not compromise on critical protections for children in any executive actions.
"The reason the faith community is particularly concerned about negative action from the administration is because President Obama’s first intervention in this policy debate was to ask Congress in June to roll back critical protections for unaccompanied children,” said Shaina Aber, Policy Director for the Jesuit Conference. “We're already seeing ... expanded family detention and other actions that undermine due process. These kids are not a problem to solve, but have been entrusted to our care to be protected."
Prior to sending the letter to the president, the Jesuits and other faith-based organizations, as well as Fr. Thomas H. Smolich, SJ, former president of the Jesuit Conference, sent letters asking Congress to protect the Central American children crossing the U.S. border.
"Given the failure of Congress, we have a broken immigration system that needs to be addressed as much as possible administratively, but we shouldn't make trade-offs. These are two different realities: refugees fleeing for their lives and the undocumented in our nation who are contributing to our society. Both need to be protected. Both need the president's action. The best would be for Congress to act, but absent this, the president needs to provide the leadership,” said Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby. [Source: Jesuit Refugee Service/USA]