June 19, 2018
Statement on the U.S. Department of Justice’s Immigration Policies
by executive board members of
The Center for the Study of Latino/a Christianity and Religions
Perkins School of Theology – Southern Methodist University
June 19, 2018
Jeff Sessions, the U.S. Attorney General, on Monday, June 11, 2018, declared that a strict interpretation of asylum eligibility excludes victims of domestic abuse and gang violence, reversing his own Department of Justice's Board of Immigration Appeals decision in 2016 In doing so, thousands of children, women and men fleeing Central America's well-documented criminal gang violence are at risk. Also, at risk are the thousands of women and children fleeing honor killings and genital mutilation globally.
The executive board members signing this statement categorically affirm that AG Sessions' interpretation contradicts basic assumptions of theological academic research and collaborative efforts emerging from its study of Christianity and other religions widely practiced among the Latino/a community. These research and collaborative efforts affirm that the Divine's impulse is to beckon Creation towards a holy, diverse community shaped by compassion, mercy and justice for one another. In Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus teaches, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’"
We also denounce the new policy as a turn away from the United States' democratic and humanitarian ideals that are the hallmarks of its asylum policies. We find ourselves in an historic moment when the U.S. asylum laws are inflicting injustice and oppression instead of providing refuge from these. The zero-tolerance policy and strict interpretation of the law criminalizes asylum seekers and separates children, ranging from 1 to 17 years of age, from their parents only to detain them in overcrowded holding centers.
In supporting this new policy, AG Sessions is starkly silent about the economic relations between Latin America and the U.S. and the ways in which U.S. trade and political policies have contributed to the untenable, violent circumstances and unrelenting poverty found in the asylum seekers home countries. He has also been silent about the U.S. Congress' vacuum of leadership as a result of inter- and intra- partisan unrest and its failure to develop humane, thoughtful immigration laws and policies.
As executive board members of the Center for the Study of Latino/a Christianity and Religion, we urge the courts and policy makers to restore our nation's asylum laws and policies so that they protect and enhance life for the most vulnerable of our world. We urge the courts and policy makers to understand that we will never protect our borders by policies that traumatize children and families who are already under duress. We believe that our great nation does have the ability to find a path forward in a manner that is compassionate and just. We urge our courts and policy makers to have the wisdom to enact compassionate and just asylum and immigration laws that, in the long term, will keep our borders safe and offer lasting peace.
Craig C. Hill, Dean/Professor of New Testament
Evelyn Parker, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs/Susanna Wesley Centennial Professor of Practical Theology
Paul Barton, Director of the Hispanic/Latin@ Ministries Program and of the United Methodist Regional Course of Study School, Professor of Christian History and Missiology
Carlos Cardoza-Orlandi, Director of Doctor of Ministry Program/Professor of World Christianities and Mission Studies
Isabel N. Docampo, Co-director of the Intern Program/Director of The Center for the Study of Latino/a Christianity and Religions
Robert Hunt, Director of Global Theological Education
Susanne Johnson, Associate Professor of Christian Education
Hugo Magallanes, Director of the Houston-Galveston Extension Program/Associate Professor of Christianity and Cultures
Harold J. Recinos, Professor of Church and Society