My name is Bill Lyons and I am the faith leader for the United Church of Christ in the Southwest – Arizona, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas. I am here today because the Bible has much to say about how people treat parentless children. None of what the Bible says includes caging or criminalizing them. The Bible calls us to CARE for children – all children – especially parentless children. Care, not cages! Care, not detention! Care, not family separation. Care! Family separation and child detention traumatizes children rather than caring for them. It must stop.
This is what caring for kids looks like:
• Children living in homes, not warehouses, not cages,
• Children living with families, not in facilities,
• Children placed with kin, foster families, or refugee resettlement families, until they can be reunified with their parents,
• Children welcomed lovingly, not criminalized
• Dollars diverted away from padding the pockets of private prison industries, and into the hands of families who welcome kids and do the caring.
• Laws that prevent trauma from happening to kids. IF agencies like Southwest Key are operating with the law as Director Christ and Governor Ducey claim, and kids are still being victimized and traumatized in those facilities as the data proves, then change the laws! Hold accountable agencies in whose care children are temporarily placed.
• Closing Arizona’s borders to agencies shipping children to detention facilities operating in our state
• Believing the children who report being abused in Southwest Key and other detention facilities – and responding swiftly thoroughly
Today I must confess the sin of my own church in another era’s family separation policies. During the Indian School Movement my own church thought it was doing the right thing. We know that was not true. We confess our sin. Knowing we were wrong then means we are confident that separating families now, warehousing kids today, is wrong, not just politically wrong, but morally wrong.
Jesus said: Matthew 18:5 “And anyone who welcomes a little child on my behalf is welcoming me. 6 But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to be shut out, if you cause one of these little one’s lives to be ruined, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.
7 “Woe the world, because we ruin other people’s lives. Yes, those moments seem inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the ruining.”
On behalf of the United Church of Christ I stand in solidarity with the Uncage and Reunify Families Coalition, and I call out Governor Ducey, and Department of Health Services Director Cara Christ and call for mandated transparency of child detention corporations like Southwest Key, increased oversight of all facilities operated by such corporations, and an achievable plan to end child detention in Arizona.