detention

Religious Groups Mixed Over Guantánamo Closure Plan

Image via REUTERS/RNS

After years of activism and campaigns, religious groups have mixed reactions to the White House’s proposed closure of the Guantanamo Bay military prison. The blueprint for closure, submitted to Congress on Feb. 23 for review, would establish a U.S. location for detainees currently held at the detention facility located at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.

Group Prods Fellow Mormons to Get Behind Family-Friendly Immigration Reform

Image via @Kate_Kelly_Esq / Twitter / RNS

Mormons teach, preach, and sing about families being together forever in heaven, but some members of the Utah-based faith want to exclude one group from that promise, at least on Earth.

Undocumented immigrants.

And, while the LDS Church supports immigration reform that keeps families together, its leaders have not pushed that idea in worship settings where Mormons are gathered. Nor has it called out those who disagree. In other words, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has gone largely silent on the issue.

Christians Strip on Court Steps to Protest Detention of Asylum Seekers

Image courtesy Louise Coghill, photography and Adam Elovalis, design.
Image courtesy Louise Coghill, photography and Adam Elovalis, design.

A group of Christians protesting detention for asylum-seeking children stripped off their clothes on the steps of the magistrate's court in Perth, Australia on Wednesday.

The group, Love Makes a Way, had just pleaded guilty to trespassing in Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's electorate office in December, where they had staged an eight-hour peaceful sit-in and several members were reportedly strip-searched.  

From the court steps, National Director of Common Grace and Sojourners contributor Jarrod McKenna quoted from the book of Matthew before he and others in the group began stripping off their garments — this time, willingly. 

In McAllen, Texas, Faith Groups Responded, while Washington Dithered

Religious leaders and immigration advocates marched toward the White House on July 31, 2014. Photo via Adelle M. Banks/RNS.

In the face of an imploding immigration system, an exploding political debate and a deadlock on reform in Washington, it was religious leaders who rallied to form a humanitarian response to the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border to the United States this summer.

The number of migrants crossing the border began its steady rise in 2011, but it escaped the Obama administration’s notice until spring, when the rise became a wave.

By September, 66,127 unaccompanied children and 66,142 Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Honduran families had crossed into the Southwest, mostly into the Rio Grande Valley. The flood contributed to a backlog in U.S.  immigration courts of nearly 400,000 cases.

Nowhere was the religious leadership more apparent than in McAllen, Texas, where churches and local government forged an effective and compassionate response to the crisis.

Why I Chained Myself to a Deportation Bus

Operation Streamline protest, photo from AFSC Photos, Flickr.com
Operation Streamline protest, photo from AFSC Photos, Flickr.com

On Oct. 11, I spent the morning under the front wheel of a bus filled with shackled immigrants. I joined this action with other community members to stop the two Homeland Security buses (operated by private contractor Wackenhut) from making it to the Operation Streamline proceedings at the Tucson federal courthouse. The buses were held and the front gate of the courthouse blocked for more than four hours, and Operation Streamline was ultimately cancelled for the day.

As my arms were locked around the wheels of the bus, I felt baptized into a deeper spirit of solidarity than I have ever known. Every one of the more than 70 immigrants on board those buses was shackled around their wrists and ankles. They were treated as if they were the biggest threats imaginable to our national security. During the action, the immigrants on the buses lifted their chains up to be seen through the darkened windows, and some of them put their palms together in front of their faces in a gesture of prayer and recognition of the meaning of the action. Other protestors at the scene had made signs in Spanish to communicate with the immigrants, with messages of: "Your struggle is our struggle;" "We are here defending your rights;" "You are not alone;" "We are with you, keep fighting;" "To desire a better life is not a crime."

Destroying Our Rights to Save Them

IT IS WELL to remember, during this season of Lent, that the enemies of Jesus were utterly convinced that he had to be silenced. Was he not a threat to a belief system, a religion, a state? Whatever it was, it was an issue of security—therefore, Jesus had to die. His freedom was a danger. He had to be silenced.

Today, in the name of national security, we in the United States are dismantling what we have been taught are our fundamental rights under the Constitution. We are left to wonder: Where is the outrage? Why are so many silent? Can it be that torture, warrantless searches, indefinite detentions—those practices that tear at the very soul of what it means to be a humane and just society—are acceptable to the American people?

Actions taken by both the Bush and Obama administrations suggest that basic guarantees made to citizens are in the process of being undermined. From torture to warrantless searches to assassinations of Americans on the president’s order, the very pillars of the republic would seem to be shattering.

Those who consider this contention extreme should consider George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley’s article, “Ten reasons we’re no longer the land of the free,” in The Washington Post this January. Turley points out the government’s continuing “ability to transfer both citizens and noncitizens to another country under a system known as extraordinary rendition, which has been denounced as using other countries, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan, to torture suspects. The Obama administration says it is not continuing the abuses of this practice under Bush, but it insists on the unfettered right to order such transfers.”

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News: Morning Quick Links

Social justice index: USA No. 27 of 31. Democrats in Congress attempt to eat on $4.50 a day to protest potential budget cuts. Republicans shift focus from jobs to God. OpEd: Obama, the G20 and the 99 percent. In Congress, the rich get richer. The Shadow Superpower. And the U.S. sues South Carolina over immigration law.

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