ICPJ Statement on Immigration

Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice unequivocally stands with our immigrant sisters and
brothers throughout the United States and with our immigrant neighbors in Washtenaw County.
Our advocacy and our work with immigrants moves us to speak out and act for justice for our

There is a U.S. migration policy disaster, not a migration crisis. Contrary to the impression
created by xenophobic rhetoric, apprehensions of migrants at the southern border were down
44% in 2017, and net migration from Mexico has been negative since 2008 as more Mexicans
are leaving the United States than entering. The foreign-born population (documented and
undocumented) is about 13% in the United States, a smaller proportion than at the peak in 1890
and less than many other countries including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and

Numerous studies confirm that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the native-born population. The U.S. government began criminalizing unauthorized immigration itself
with “Operation Streamline” in 2005, making it a misdemeanor to enter without inspection and a
felony to re-enter, creating a massive windfall for the privatized detention industry. Falsely
stigmatizing our immigrant neighbors as criminals fuels racist and xenophobic hatred and
division in our society.

People who cross the border without permission are not deliberately choosing to break the law
rather than “waiting in line”: Essentially there is no line to wait in, because U.S. policy allows
very few opportunities for legal migration.

Harsh immigration policies and walls do not keep people out, because desperate people will
migrate for survival. Rather, these policies only make migrants vulnerable to abuse and
suffering. They die trying to cross the desert in more remote places, they are preyed upon in
transit by criminal networks and governments, and once in the United States they are subject to
labor abuses by employers who exploit their precarious legal status.

Many migrants are desperately seeking refuge from poverty and violence fueled by U.S.
policies. The U.S. government spent billions of dollars in the 1980s propping up repressive
Central American regimes serving the interests of oligarchs, devastating those societies and
fueling ongoing cycles of violence. Over 70% of guns used by drug and crime syndicates in
Mexico come from the United States. “Free trade” policies that enrich global corporations have
devastated subsistence agriculture and ravaged the poor in Mexico and Central America. The
violent gangs that plague Central America were formed on the streets of Los Angeles, and sent to
El Salvador when U.S. authorities began rounding them up and deporting them in 1989.

There is a moral obligation to help those who flee their homelands. Every major religious
and spiritual tradition commands us to welcome the stranger and help the less fortunate. We also
have an obligation under international law to provide refuge to those who have a “well-founded
fear of persecution” based on belonging to a targeted group, and to not send them back to the country from which they have fled. People who present themselves to officials at the border
asking for asylum are complying with the law. The U.S. and the rest of the world embraced this
obligation in ratifying the Refugee Convention after the horrors of WWII, and has a tradition of
being a place of refuge. Yet the U.S. government has been stripping away protections and
ramping up the obstacles for asylum-seekers. Of the 13 million Syrian refugees, the U.S. has
taken only 33,000 total (and only 11 Syrians in the first 3-1/2 months of this year). The U.S. and
Mexican governments have teamed up in the mass deportation of immigrants from Honduras, El
Salvador, and Guatemala, where they face state-sponsored violence and some of the world’s
highest homicide rates.

Recently the U.S. administration has hit a new moral low in deliberately tearing children from their parents, detaining some 3,000 in unacceptable conditions, withholding information on their whereabouts, and cynically claiming that small children can represent themselves in court.

We call out to people of faith and conscience to mobilize locally and nationally for:
a just, welcoming, and inclusive approach to immigration;

  •  support of immigrants in our midst and defense of their rights;
  •  sanctuary for immigrants in need, in our congregations and communities;
  •  an immediate end to the hateful and divisive rhetoric about people from diverse
    countries and backgrounds, acknowledging that we are one human family;
  •  an end to the punitive separation of immigrant families, and immediate family
  •  an end to the criminalization of migration;
  •  full compliance with national and international laws that protect asylum-seekers and that
    prohibit their mistreatment at the border or forcible return;
  •  foreign policies that promote peace, well-being, and justice instead of the fear and misery
    that drives people to flee their homelands;