Family Detention

Program Advisory Group Members Reflect on D.C. Witness Against Family Detention

Program Advisory Group Members Reflect on D.C. Witness Against Family Detention
Program Advisory Group members Sabrina White (left), Esther Barkat (center) with Melissa Bowe (right) of National Justice For Our Neighbors.

United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group members Esther Barkat and Sabrina White joined faith-based and social justice groups delivering a letter calling for an end to family detentions May 21 at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C. They met with President advisors Melissa Rogers, director of Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnership, Julie Rodriguez of the Office of Public Engagement and Felicia Escobar of the Domestic Policy Council.

As a licensed school psychologist, Ms. Barkat was able to speak about the psychological effects children experience while held in family detention centers.

Below are Ms. Barkat and Ms. White’s reflections on the meeting.

Sabrina White

As I prayerfully waited to speak to the President advisors, I was mindful of the women and children who are being held captive in these remote detention camps. I thought about the biblical passage from Luke 4:18 that United Methodist Women uses as both a model and a mandate for Christian social action and advocacy.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

That verse reminded me that I must speak up, stand up and advocate to end family detention because it is a human rights violation. I know that the oppressed must go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor!

I stand today to advocate an end to family detention, knowing that family detention is a human rights violation. 

My final thoughts were those of the church: We affirm a world aligned with God’s vision of a beloved community, a world in which nationalities and borders do not divide us as the people whom God loves. We affirm the human rights of every person regardless of status and affirm that these rights do not stop at borders.

Esther Barkat

As excited as I was to meet with President advisors along with other faith community members, I was also somewhat anxious. I was worried that it would be yet another meeting with no real consequences. I prayed about the meeting and asked for peace of mind and direction to speak on behalf of families who are desperately in need of our support. I prayed for courage to be a voice of the voiceless. I was given an opportunity to speak about psychological effects, including physical and cognitive effects on children due to trauma they experience while in U.S. detention centers.

After the meeting, I was energized and hopeful that we as a faith community are fighting to make a difference in the lives of people who can’t fight for themselves.

With one voice we all spoke about ending the family detention centers. I, along with Sabrina White, was proud to represent United Methodist Women.

Esther Barkat is a member of the 2013-2016 United Methodist Women Board of Directors and of the Program Advisory Group. Sabrina White is a member of the United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group.

Posted or updated: 5/26/2015 12:00:00 AM


*Campaign to End Family Detention info page

*Global Migration and Immigration Rights

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PDF will open in a new window Download a flyer to sign and let President Obama know we stand against family detention and mass incarceration
PDF will open in a new window Download in postcard format

For more information and opportunities contact:

Carol Barton, United Methodist Women Immigrant & Civil Rights Initiative
777 United Nations Plaza, 11th floor
New York, NY 10017