Children fleeing violence should be treated as refugees
There’s a growing humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border as tens of thousands of children flee gang violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and brave a dangerous border crossing in search of safety.
Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Joe Garcia just returned from a bipartisan visit to the Rio Grande Valley. They talked to refugees and border patrol officials alike and concluded “many thousands of these children are bona fide refugees fleeing dangerous situations. They are deserving of protection under international and domestic law.”1
As the White House ramps up its efforts to address this humanitarian crisis, we need to make sure the president knows that many of these children are refugees whom the administration must treat in a humane way, offer protections under international law, and not rush back to extremely dangerous situations in their countries of origin.
Tell President Obama and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Johnson: The children at the border are refugees, not criminals.
The Obama administration requested $3.7 billion from Congress this week to apprehend, care for and remove unaccompanied minors. At the announcement, a White House official even told reporters that the administration plans to work with Congress to speed up the deportation of these children.2
That’s not how child refugees fleeing violence should be treated.
In a statement released by Reps. Lofgren, Jackson Lee, and Garcia, they noted the deplorable conditions that toddlers and other small children are being subjected to while being jailed at the border.
The conditions of small children confined in Border Patrol stations are unacceptable. Countless children – even toddlers – are currently being held in holding cells in Border Patrol stations that were never designed to care for them. We saw one 3-year old child who had been held for 12 days – she had been looked after by a teenage detainee, but after her caretaker was transferred to another Border Patrol facility in Nogales, the child was handed off from one preteen detainee to another as they were churned in and out of the station. This is intolerable, and the Administration must address the situation without delay, including, if necessary, utilizing FEMA resources to provide these children with a safe and secure environment while their immigration matters are being decided.
The United Nations is also increasing pressure on the United States to do the right thing and accept more of the children currently ineligible for asylum by pushing for many of the Central Americans detained by U.S. Border Patrol to be treated as "refugees displaced by armed conflict.3
Tell President Obama and Sec. Johnson: Child refugees deserve humane treatment with appropriate legal protections, not deportation.
It is important to recognize that the immigrant children seeking safety and shelter in the United States are not migrant workers – they are refugees from political violence.
1. "Lawmakers deplore conditions at humanitarian border crisis," Representative Zoe Lofgren, July 3, 2014
2. "Obama Requests $3.7 Billion To Deal With Border Crisis," Huffington Post, July 8, 2014
3. "UN Enters Immigration Debate, Pushes For Fleeing Central Americans To Be Treated As Refugees," Huffington Post, July 8, 2014