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STATEMENT FROM FAITH REPRESENTATIVES
FOLLOWING APRIL 30, 2001, TOUR OF THE WACKENHUT DETENTION CENTER

As representatives of diverse faith traditions that lift up hospitality to the stranger as a fundamental principle, we are deeply troubled by the way our country is treating people who come to our shores fleeing persecution in their homelands. Today, we call upon Congress and the Administration to end policies and practices enacted in 1996, which seriously undermine our nation’s commitment to refugee protection. We are particularly concerned about the impact of expedited removal and detention on adults and children seeking asylum here.

Historically, our nation has been a beacon of hope and freedom for the oppressed. Many of our ancestors fled religious and other persecution and were welcomed here. Yet today, low-level officials have the power to turn asylum seekers away at our borders through on the spot, unmonitored interviews. Thousands of asylum seekers, including children, are also imprisoned in INS detention centers and county jails while they await decisions on their claims. Women, men and children who have suffered torture and imprisonment, witnessed the murder of their families and destruction of their homes, and endured long and dangerous journeys to reach freedom find themselves behind bars. Some remain there for months or even years, with little access to legal, social, and spiritual care.

As a just and generous country that has traditionally stood for the protection of human rights around the world, we can and must do better. We urge Congress and the Administration to take immediate steps to correct the policies enacted into law in 1996 that are causing such severe human suffering.

Signed:

Tour participants also included:

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