Statement on Reported Abuses of Immigration Enforcement and Detention Centers

October 2, 2020

The Episcopal Church supports comprehensive immigration reform that respects the dignity and worth of every human being. Firmly rooted in the ministry of welcome, The Episcopal Church is committed to advocating for immigration policies that provide pathways to citizenship, mandate humane enforcement, and prioritize family unity. 

On Sept. 10, Binsar Siahaan, an undocumented Indonesian immigrant living on the grounds of Glenmont United Methodist Church in Silver Spring, MD, was arrested at his home by Immigration and Customs Services (ICE). Siahaan, who has resided in the U.S. since 1989, was arrested without a warrant, detained, and transferred to Stewart Detention Center for deportation. While ICE can legally enter a church or church property to detain undocumented immigrants, they generally do not make arrests in “sensitive locations,” such as churches and other religious houses of worship. 

Recent news reports reveal the dismal and dangerous conditions in many immigrant detention centers around the country.  On September 14, an official complaint was filed against Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, GA., on behalf of detained immigrants and protected whistleblower and employee Dawn Wooten.  Project South, Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, and South Georgia Immigrant Support Network allege a lack of testing and protection against COVID-19 for detained immigrants, medical neglect, unsafe living and working conditions, and high rates of hysterectomies. On September 21, the House Homeland Security Committee released a report that found “a pattern of violations across ICE’s detention system.” The findings of the report are corroborated by the experiences and testimonies of those in detention and those who serve and advocate on their behalf, including Episcopal clergy and laypersons across the country. Through official policy from General Convention, the governing body of The Episcopal Church, the Church advocates for humane alternatives to detention and calls for accountability and oversight to ensure detainees are provided with humanitarian treatment, adequate food and medical care, and sanitary conditions. 

Recent events are heightening concerns, raising awareness, and prompting new demands for oversight and accountability. The Episcopal Church, firmly rooted in the policies of General Convention, ask that members of Congress continue in their important oversight roles as well as work fervently for legislative solutions to end immigrant detention and reform the U.S. immigration system.   

  • Action: Watch Immigrant Detention during COVID-19: Prophetic Action & Compassionate Response, with Episcopal Migration Ministries 
  • Action: Read The Dangers of Detention During COVID-19. Call your legislator and tell them you oppose family detention! 
  • GC Resolution link: 2018-A178 – Denounce Inhumane Immigration Policies and Advocate on Behalf of Migrants 

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About the Office of Government Relations 

The Office of Government Relations represents the policy priorities of The Episcopal Church to the U.S. government in Washington, D.C. We aim to shape and influence policy and legislation on critical issues, highlighting the voices and experiences of Episcopalians and Anglicans globally. All policy positions are based on General Convention and Executive Council resolutions, the legislative and governing bodies of the Church. 

About Episcopal Migration Ministries

Episcopal Migration Ministries, in addition to its long-standing work in refugee resettlement, is The Episcopal Church’s ministry network for collaboration, education, and advocacy about migration. To directly support EMM, visit www.episcopalmigrationministries.org/give or text ‘EMM’ to 41444 (standard messaging and data may rates apply).