Minute of Concern: Immigrant Families Seeking Asylum (September 2018)

The Quaker Testimony on Community is Directly Relevant to Issues of Immigration:  “There is a reciprocal nature to our relationships in community, but the love of God takes us beyond exchange and contract to covenant and commitment.  We care for those who need us, whether they are able to return the care or not.  We care for the prisoners who have harmed us, for they also are beloved of God.  We have compassion for those in power, even when we disagree with their actions, for we know they are human and carry within themselves the seed of love.  We care for migrants who have left home and family to seek a new life in a strange place.  We care for all we love and all we might come to love.”

“Community is shelter, a safe place to grow, an arena for action, caring and love – and powered by and united in the Light”*

Minute: Members of Inland Valley Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) add their voice to the millions who condemn current federal Government actions taken against those seeking asylum in this country.  We view these actions as barbaric, completely against the principles inherent in our founding, contrary to QUAKER TESTIMONY ON COMMUNITY*, and in violation of international law,  including the 1951 REFUGEE CONVENTION and THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD**. 

From our beginnings, we are a nation of immigrants.  To take children from their parents indicates a total lack of compassion.  To deport parents before they have been reunited with their children is a moral failing. Therefore, we demand that those who have implemented these policies be held accountable for their crimes. The Government’s treatment of those who seek relief from death threats and violence is in violation of ARTICLE 14 of the 1948 UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.  To quote the bible for support of these heinous acts, as done by the Attorney General and the Press Secretary, is the epitome of hypocrisy.

We ask that the court order to immediately reunite these families continue to be implemented as quickly as possible, that the financial resources needed to accomplish this be paid by the Government, and that additional staff, including pro bono legal representation, be provided to those seeking asylum.  This family crisis is the direct result of the Trump Administration’s cruel and calculated policy choices.  These policies are completely unacceptable, un-American, and in contravention to international law.**


*From Intermountain Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice

**The United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_on_the_Rights_of_the_Child


1951 Refugee Convention.  The Refugee Convention builds on Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The 1967 Protocol removed the time limits and applied to refugees “without any geographic limitation”. Declarations previously made by parties to the Convention on geographic scope were grandfathered.  The US ratified the Protocol in 1968.  The United States of America is a party only to the Protocol.

The principle of Non-refoulement (Article 33) is still applied today, with the 1951 Convention being the hallmark of such rights.

The 1984 Cartagena Declaration, while nonbinding, also sets out regional standards for refugees in Central America, Mexico and Panama.  Similar additions were made in the 1969 Refuge Convention, but the Cartagena Declaration has further extended them. Refugees are those:

“persons who have fled their country because their lives, security or freedom have been threatened by generalized violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order”.

This definition allows a broader temporal and geographical scope for the risks refugees find themselves in and additionally covers some of the indirect effects such as poverty, economic decline, inflation, violence, disease, food insecurity, malnourishment and displacement. 

According to the convention, the contracting states shall not

  • discriminate against refugees (Article 3)
  • take exceptional measures against a refugee solely on account of his or her nationality (Article 8)
  • expect refugees to pay taxes and fiscal charges that are different to those of nationals (Article 29)
  • impose penalties on refugees who entered illegally in search of asylum if they present themselves without delay (Article 31), which is commonly interpreted to mean that their unlawful entry and presence ought not to be prosecuted at all.
  • expel refugees (Article 32)
  • forcibly return or “refoul” refugees to the country they’ve fled from (Article 33). It is widely accepted that the prohibition of forcible return is part of customary international law. This means that even States that are not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention must respect the principle of non-refoulement. Therefore, States are obligated under the Convention and under customary international law to respect the principle of non-refoulement.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (commonly abbreviated as the CRC or UNCRC) is a human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. The Convention defines a child as any human being under the age of eighteen, unless the age of majority is attained earlier under national legislation. The UN General Assembly adopted the Convention and opened it for signature on 20 November 1989. It came into force on 2 September 1990, after it was ratified by the required number of nations. Currently, 196 countries are party to it, including every member of the United Nations except the United States.