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Parkins of Episcopal Migration Ministries writes to Ridge on status of asylum seekers

[Episcopal News Service]  Richard Parkins, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), wrote to Tom Ridge, secretary of Homeland Security, asking his department 'to rethink its position regarding prospective asylum seekers as set forth in Operation Liberty Shield.'

'While fully endorsing the need to ensure that persons coming to our nation do not pose a threat to the safety of the American people, we feel that detaining those seeking asylum for the 'full duration of the asylum process' does not serve our nation well and clearly undermines our tradition of being a nation where those fleeing persecution can find safety,' wrote Parkins in his April 3 letter.

Parkins also argued that 'the premise that the country of origin of an asylum seeker is sufficient reason for indefinite detention comes dangerously close to the practice of racial or ethnic profiling. Our church has taken a strong stand against such practices,' he added. 'Asylum seekers are themselves seeking safety from tyranny and persecution and, as such, should not have the pain of their past history compounded by a protracted stay in a detention facility.'

If the claims were handled on an individual basis, Parkins contended, 'the validity of a person's claim can be readily ascertained. If an affirmative determination is made, the benefits of asylum should be immediately conferred.' He said that it was 'inhumane' to increase the pain and suffering of those seeking asylum, many of them women and children.

During this time of fear and anxiety it is especially important that we be 'vigilant in safeguarding our Constitutional principles,' Parkins concluded. 'To do otherwise belittles us as a nation and, in a way, hands a victory to our enemies who might wish to see our system of justice undermined.'