Holding Children and Families in Detention Centers is Not the Answer

Bethany Christian Services has long maintained that jailing asylum-seeking families should not be the alternative to separating families at the border. While we want to see all families reunified, we are concerned that recently reunified families may remain in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security, as detailed in the federal government’s reunification plan for separated children five and older. It is wrong to jail refugee children.

Individuals who are ultimately granted asylum wait approximately three years on average for relief. Congress should pursue compassionate, effective, and affordable alternatives - like the Family Case Management Program - that allow families to live together in the community while their asylum claims are reviewed. Rather than jail families or return them to the terror from which they fled, let’s come together and support policies that compassionately bring families together and keep families together.

Support Reunification of Children and Families

Advocate for Refugees

Contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives by phone or written letter. Inform and educate your community using the facts and infographics provided by Bethany.

Donate to Bethany

Your gift will provide safe, temporary foster families to vulnerable children as we continue to pursue reunification of children and families.

Become a Refugee Foster Parent

We need people willing to provide a safe and supportive home for refugee and unaccompanied youth.

This is not the America I know" -Chris Palusky, CEO, on the treatment of families seeking asylum

Members of the Michigan business community wrote a letter in support for refugees resettling in the United States, highlighting the positive contributions refugees make in our communities. 

FAQs About Family Separation and Reunification

We have recently received a number of questions about the separated children in Bethany's care and the process of reunifying them with their families. We have prepared a document you can download to discover answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. 

Updated FAQs

Response to the Crisis at the U.S. Border

(Grand Rapids, MI - January 8, 2019) There is a crisis at our border – desperate people who have fled for their lives are seeking protection. Instead of turning these children and families away, we believe that organizations, private and government alike, should band together to meet immediate needs, provide safety, and allow them to seek long-term protection as U.S. law allows.

The best way to help families stay in their homes is to address the root causes that are forcing them to flee in the first place. Ending migration from Central America will never be accomplished through deterrence and threats – not when people are fleeing for their lives.

Bethany Christian Services is committed to serving those who have been victims of violent conflict, persecution, poverty, starvation, and trafficking. Our faith compels us to love vulnerable strangers, so we will advocate for protection and aid for those who are fleeing. We support working throughout the region to create stronger humanitarian protections so that the inherent worth of each person is protected, families are kept together, and children are kept safe.

Bethany Reunites Nearly 90 Percent of Refugee Children Separated From Families

(Grand Rapids, MI - July 26, 2018) Bethany Christian Services has reunited nearly 90 percent of the refugee children who were placed in our care after they were separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border within the past year. This includes nearly all children who were separated under the “zero-tolerance” policy. Bethany continues to work with a small number of children separated before and during “zero tolerance” whose reunifications have been delayed because of extenuating circumstances. We will continue to seek the reunification of all separated children, and strongly condemn any U.S. policy that forcibly separates or jails asylum-seeking refugee children and their families who come to our borders fleeing violence.

Bethany Continues to Work to Reunify Families Separated at the Border

(Grand Rapids, MI - June 22, 2018) Long before the “zero tolerance” policy was implemented, Bethany has been proactive in partnering with federal agencies to reunify unaccompanied and separated children with their families as soon as possible. Within three days of entry, Border Patrol and Immigration work with partnering agencies to place children in shelters or transitional foster care. We recognize that living in shelters can be traumatic for children; therefore, Bethany offers transitional foster care for children. Children should be kept safe in a loving home until they can be reunited with their families. Our staff work tirelessly to locate parents or other family members to reunify the child with loved ones.  When reunification with a parent or family member occurs, children are always accompanied to assure their safety. Bethany is committed to keeping families together and bringing families together, so our goal remains to reunify children with their families.  

Bethany’s Response to the Executive Order Keeping Families Together

(Grand Rapids, MI - June 20, 2018) The Executive Order recognizing the importance of keeping families together is only the first step to reversing the harm caused by the “zero tolerance” policy targeting vulnerable families and children who are seeking refuge, and much uncertainty remains. While keeping families together is the right thing to do, keeping families in detention facilities is still extremely traumatic and harmful for children. Family separation and family detention should not be the only solutions to a problem that never needed to exist. Instead, Congress and the administration should focus on community-based services and reforms that protect children and families. It is still too soon to determine how the order will impact vulnerable families and children, but we remain committed to their safety and well-being, and keeping families together.

Bethany Supports Family Reunification

(Grand Rapids, MI - June 20, 2018) Bethany Christian Services is committed to bringing and keeping families together. Helping children is at the heart of our mission and we want nothing more than to see vulnerable children reunited with their families. Bethany is an accredited organization that has been partnering with government and faith-based establishments for 20 years to provide services and aid to refugees in the form of foster care, resettlement, counseling, health care, education and reunification.

We believe that all children belong with their families. However, in the current situation of children being separated at the border, we would prefer these vulnerable children be placed temporarily in a safe and loving foster home instead of remaining in a center for an undetermined period of time. Our goal remains to reunify these children with their biological families and we hope that, along with other organizations in the U.S., we can assist in making this happen for these families.

Bethany’s Statement on the Attorney General Citing Scripture to Justify the Separation of Families

(Grand Rapids, MI - June 15, 2018) Given our long-standing commitment to welcoming refugee and immigrant families, in partnership with local churches and community agencies, Bethany Christian Services continues to be deeply troubled and concerned at the administration’s “zero tolerance” deterrent policy of separating children from their parents. Such policies create unnecessary trauma on the most vulnerable and most certainly will have devastating long-term effects. Recent scriptural justifications of such policies are insensitive. The separation of children from their parents and families is wrong.

As Christians the family is a fundamental building block of the kingdom and at Bethany we are committed to helping the least of these as our faith commands and the least of these are children and families fleeing unspeakable violence and terror. Separating children from their parents as a deterrent is simply cruel. As Christians, we are committed to having mercy on those who seek refuge. Our Christian faith compels us to aid vulnerable strangers. Jesus made this abundantly clear when he instructed his followers to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

Bethany's Statement on Refugee Resettlement

(Grand Rapids, MI - January 17, 2018) The safety and well-being of children and families is Bethany Christian Services’ primary concern. Given our long-standing commitment to welcoming refugee and immigrant families, in partnership with local churches and community agencies, Bethany Christian Services is deeply saddened to hear of the Supreme Court’s current decision to allow the President’s travel ban to take effect as it takes the hope of safety and a future from thousands of refugees, the majority of which are women and children, coming from some of the most war torn countries in the world.  

Bethany’s Christian faith calls us to care for the widow, the orphan and those seeking refuge and our concern remains for the families and children impacted. We support Immigration reform that strengthens families, not puts innocent lives in peril, so we remain hopeful that this will only be a temporary measure. Family preservation and reunification is at the core of our heart and our mission and we will advocate for those who desperately need it. Learn more about Bethany’s refugee and immigrant services and how you can make a difference.

Read President and CEO Chris Palusky's Message on Refugee Resettlement

Read Bethany Christian Services' Board Letter to President Trump Expressing Support for Refugees

Bethany's Press Releases

Bethany's Statement on U.S. Immigration Policy: "Asylum-Seekers are Humans Created in the Image of God, not Criminals"

Bethany's Statement on Historically Low Refugee Goal: “We Can Do Better. We Must Do Better.”

Bethany's Recommends Alternatives to Detention for Families at Southern Border

Statement for the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Oversight of Immigration Enforcement and Family Reunification Efforts”

Bethany in the News - Speaking Out About U.S. Zero Tolerance Deterrent Policy

Reunited migrant families share their experiences in U.S. custody (WGRZ)

Nearly All Separated Migrant Children Sent to Michigan have been Reunited with Families (Michigan Radio)

90 percent of Refugee Children Reunited with Families (WZZM 13)

Reunited Migrant Families Share their Experiences in U.S. Custody (WGRZ.com)

US Foster Parents of Separated Immigrant Children 'Don't Know How Much Worse it Could Be' (ABC News)

'I Really Miss My Mom': What Becomes of a 5-year-old in Maryland and the Other Separated Children Now? (The Washington Post)

Outrage Grows Over U.S. Separating Immigrant Families (CNN)

Protestors Demand an End to Trump Policy Separating Migrant Children from their Parents (MSNBC)

Extinguishing the Beacon of America (The Atlantic)

'Children are Being Used as a Tool' in Trump's effort to Stop Border Crossings (Boston Globe)

'It's Horrendous': The Heartache of a Migrant Boy Taken from His Father (New York Times)

'Lost' Migrant Children? Statistics Show the Government is Keeping More of them Far Longer (The Washington Post)

'Whatever' Isn't an Option for Immigrant Children (The Hill)