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Clerics criticize immigration detention facilities

South Carolina residents may recall reports in 2014 concerning detention centers that were opened by immigration authorities to cope with a flood of Central American immigrants crossing into the United States from Mexico. Most of these immigrants were unaccompanied minors or women with young children. A group of 80 Jewish and Christian clerics voiced concerns about the detention policy in a letter to President Obama released on April 27, and a group of bishops made critical comments after touring one of the facilities in Texas.

The clerics point out that these families pose no threat to society and have committed no crimes, and they say that detaining them is both unjust and inappropriate. The clerics also claim that immigrants may be denied their right to to due process under the law because of their limited access to legal resources. The clerics also said in their letter that many of these families sought refuge in the U.S. to escape violence in their native countries.

Immigration authorities say that the centers have an open environment and provide detainees with access to medical care and social workers. However, a group of bishops visiting one of the centers said that many of the women they encountered told them that they had been encouraged to sign voluntary deportation papers. The clerics said that religious organizations could be called upon to provide temporary shelter for the detainees.

Many of those seeking a new life in the United States find the immigration process frustrating and difficult to understand. The process often involves strict time limits, and even minor documentation errors can cause significant problems. An immigration law attorney can explain the various options available for those who wish to live and work legally in the United States.

Source: ABC News, "Clerics Urge US to End Family Detention of Immigrants", Seth Robbins, Associated Press, March 27, 2015

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