Jesuit Refugee Service/USA urges the U.S. Government to take necessary action to ensure that asylum seekers arriving in the U.S. are not criminally punished for trying to seek protection and that the rights and dignity of children and families entering the U.S. are respected.
JRS/USA believes any U.S. policies calling for the indefinite detention of families seeking asylum are contrary to our Catholic values and violate the rights of asylum seekers and the dignity of children and their families. They also put at risk the long term mental health and well-being of children and their parents.
JRS works with forcibly displaced children and families around the world and know that detention can have a particularly detrimental effect on their wellbeing. Detention can cause hazardous psychological stress and can permanently impact a child’s mental, physical, and emotional development.
“Displaced children already face significant trauma and challenges because of their forced displacement,” says Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director, JRS/USA. “To treat them and their families as criminals and to keep them in detention will cause further trauma for thousands of children and potentially irreparable long-term damage.”
It is the position of JRS – based on Catholic Social Teachings, Jesuit values, and in-depth knowledge from working with displaced people – that in regard to detention, the following principles should be applied:
- Anyone who is fleeing from severe human rights violations has an inalienable right to seek protection in another country; • Anyone who is fleeing from severe human rights violations has a right to be heard and have access to an asylum claim;
- Individuals and their families shall not be punished, administratively or criminally, for submitting an asylum claim by the national authorities of the country in which they seek protection;
- Authorities of the countries of reception shall take the utmost care to provide for the well-being and safety of asylum applicants;
- Children who seek asylum in another country, whether they are accompanied or not, and by reasons of their physical and mental vulnerability, require the provision of special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection and the unity of the family, to the extent that it is in the best interest of the child.
For these reasons, JRS encourages the U.S. Government to ensure that the rights of the most vulnerable among us are protected in its approach to those seeking asylum in the U.S.