Saturday, August 08, 2009

Seeing the Divine in Every Life: AFSC Statement on Immigrant Detention

Since 1917 the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has served as a non-governmental organization, grounded in the principles and testimonies of the Society of Friends (Quakers). The Quaker vision of justice is grounded in a core belief that “there is that of God in everyone” and the Biblical call to welcome the stranger.

Our vision, as it applies to immigration, draws on years of experience in international human rights work and with immigrant communities worldwide. Human migration is a global phenomenon driven by political, social and economic considerations that demand not just our attention, but our humanity and compassion. We are all God’s people, no matter our circumstances.

And so we react with dismay to the increasing criminalization of individuals with tenuous legal status in the United States. In particular, we see the increasing overuse and abuse of detention as a demonstrably failed policy and practice. The U.S. government’s punitive focus on arrest, detention and deportation diverts attention from more compelling human, civil and labor rights issues and from the complex causes of immigration. This punitive focus, in its harsh and capricious application, shatters families and stokes fear in communities; creates incentives for individuals and businesses to profit by the incarceration of others; and shames our highest ideals as Americans and our deepest convictions as Quakers.

We envision an immigration policy free of imprisonment, a policy that offers humane treatment to asylum seekers, refugees, and economic migrants, and that provides for legal status for undocumented immigrants. We call for the end to the misguided and profoundly unjust policy of detention in our immigration system.

Approved by the American Friends Service Committee
Board Executive Committee