End Family Separation: Decriminalize Migration Grassroots Tool Kit

“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[g] you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40-41 NRSV


Update June 20, 2018–  The 223 General Assembly Condemns the President’s June 20th Executive Order “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation” that further criminalizes migration through the expansion of family detention on military bases and other government property, potentially indefinitely.

The president’s order does nothing to address the plight of the more than 2,300 children who have already been separated from their parents under the president’s “zero tolerance” policy. The reality is that it may not stop separating families, will not reunite the thousands of families already torn apart, and aims to lock up even more children and families.

The order codifies Attorney General Sessions’s zero-tolerance policy, instructing officials to continue to prosecute adults crossing the border as criminals—including those who are seeking asylum–, “but will seek to find or build facilities that can hold families—parents and children together—instead of separating them while their legal cases are considered by the courts.” The order also seeks to modify the 1997 Flores settlement agreement that bars the detention of migrant children for more than 20 days.

The executive order instructs attorney general Jeff Sessions to ask for the federal court’s permission to open the terms of the Flores agreement so that the families can be kept in custody until their cases are resolved.


June 18, 2018

People of Faith around the country are outraged that our tax dollars are supporting our government to tear families apart and incarcerate children. Under the Trump administration’s extreme “zero tolerance” immigration policy, immigrant families are being separated at the border. The policy, which was officially announced on May 7, has led to more than 2,000 immigrant children being ripped from their parents while attempting to find safety at the U.S. border.

The decision to accelerate family separation is voluntary. As long as President Trump and Attorney General Sessions choose to prosecute 100% of parents, their kids will still be taken away from them. Whether it’s 3 days, 3 weeks, or 3 months, ripping kids away from their parents is traumatizing and immoral and there is no “fix” to this self-created problem. The only fix is to stop incarcerating parents.

We must not repeat the immoral acts in our country’s history that violently divided families in the slave trade and Indian boarding schools.  Presbyterians around the country have the opportunity to “practice biblical hospitality to immigrant groups” (220th General Assembly, On Advocating for Comprehensive Immigration Reform) and join the ranks on the right side of history in an attempt to co-create the Kingdom of God.



1) Mobilize

2) Call and Tweet Your Representatives (202) 224-3121

Sample Script:

Hi Rep ____My name is _____________ and as a Presbyterian I am devastated with the administration’s decision to enforce family separation at the Southern Border. I urge you to vote NO on the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act and any other legislation that would further divide families and criminalize parents.  

Sample Tweet: @RepresenativeName, I urge you to vote NO on the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act. We need policy to #KeepFamiliesTogether

Sign up for alerts at capwiz.com/pcusa 

3) Plan a Neighbor-to-Neighbor Visit to Your In-District Member Offices: Your Members of Congress will be home from June 30th – July 8th – an important time to share the importance of decriminalizing migration. Establishing and nurturing relationships with your Senators and Representatives are crucial to enacting immigration policies that protect and affirm the rights of all people, and also to stopping proposals that would exacerbate family separation. Every Senator and Representative has an office – often multiple offices – in their home state. Use our Neighbor to Neighbor Toolkit to request meetings and put together a team. Here are some guidelines:

  • Get a team together: A team ideally includes faith leaders from different traditions, people whose lives have been directly impacted by the immigration system, people who volunteer or work teaching English, etc.
  • Learn about who represents your community in Congress: Go to capwiz.com/pcusa to find out which Members of Congress represent you and your surrounding community.
  • Have a plan: Meet with the other participants to assign roles, including the facilitator, the personal story, specific points, and the “ask.”
  • Schedule a meeting: Call your Member’s local office to request a meeting (local office numbers can be found on their websites). Make sure to tell them how many other faith leaders and community members would like to attend. If the member is unavailable, ask to meet with staff who work on immigration issues. You may have to send an email or fill out a form. Don’t be discouraged if you need to follow-up for a response.
  • Talking points and leave behinds: In this folder are some talking points as well as handouts to take to congressional meetings.

4) Write an Op Ed

Here’s a template op-ed, please adapt for your local context and share the published piece online with the hashtag #pcusa. Feel free to email nora.leccese@pcusa.org to let the broader Church know you were published.

5) Understand the Root Causes of Migration

Watch the film, The Genesis of Exodus: The Roots of Central American  Migration

  • View the comprehensive storymap for The Genesis of Exodus.
  • Use the Reflection Guide(PDF) to aid in understanding the content presented in the film, The Genesis of Exodus, and the accompanying storymap and to assist in mobilizing action.

6)Bring Prayer and Hymn to your worship

Organizations and Resources for Further Learning


Legal Aid Organizations Funded By Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Resources from the Faith Community

National Migrant Justice Organizations: Seek out a local chapter and get involved!

*Many thanks to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, The PC(USA) Office of Immigration Issues for partnership on this toolkit and The Catalyst Project and Mijente for resources and framing

2 Responses to “End Family Separation: Decriminalize Migration Grassroots Tool Kit”

  1. Lawrence S. Moir

    This is the email I sent to Congressman Lloyd Smucker, representative for Pennsylvanias 16th Congressional District.

    Dear Congressman Smucker

    My name is Lawrence Moir, a constituent who has communicated with you before. As a Presbyterian I am devastated with the administration’s decision to enforce family separation at the Southern Border. I urge you to vote NO on the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act and any other legislation that would further divide families and criminalize parents. Security at our southern borders should not be bought at the expense of the spiritual, physical and emotional welfare of children and their parents. This is a cynical, tyranical, abusive policy unbecoming of our great nation. Certainly there are mor moral and ethical avenues that this proposed legislation proposed by Representative Ryan.

    It is abhorant that AG Sessions would misuse Holy Scripture in the way he did this past week. His laughing, smiling presentatoin was an offence to all Bible beliving Christians who hold to belief in the Risen Christ, who take seriously Christ’s teaching in Matthew 25:31-46, as well as the clear command in the final verses of Romans 13, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for of the one who loves another has fulfilled the law… Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” In the statement form AG Sessions there is not even the pretense of love of neighbor. Love is the fulfillment of all laws. The church fathers and reformers all taught that civil government is ordained by God to protect the weak, those who do not have the means to speak for themselves, or protect themselves. The law of God is not designed by God to divide or punish, it is not designed to persecute the weak, the stranger or the child.

    I will continue to pray for you. If you desire you and I can meet for a personal conversation.

    In the name of Christ Jesus,
    Lawrence S. Moir
    6 Stratford Village
    Lancaster, PA 17602


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