Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) welcomes the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, which was signed last Friday by 20 governments across the Americas, including the United States, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. We applaud the Declaration’s pledge to promote respect for the rights of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees and the commitment to strengthening protection systems and to ensure that migrant children in particular are returned to safe conditions. While the Declaration signals a shared commitment to protecting and accommodating vulnerable populations, we hope to see governments across the region take concrete steps to address migration in a way that acknowledges the unique needs and vulnerabilities of children on the move.
As children and families comprise many those fleeing north from Central and South America to seek safety, governments in the region, especially the United States and Mexico, must center the protection of children in all migration policies. Unity in this effort among governments will help ensure that children receive the protection they need and deserve and do not fall prey to those who wish to harm them, among the many dangers they face as they migrate.
The U.S. government must continue to work with other regional governments to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in transit, strengthen regional protection systems, and ensure that children can be safely returned and reintegrated into their home countries. The Biden Administration’s July 2021 Collaborative Migration Management Strategy to promote safe, orderly, and humane migration is a step in the right direction, but children must be at the forefront of this strategy with increased investments in safe return, reception and reintegration efforts, and protection programs like the Central American Minors program. Working together, governments can support regional protection, humanitarian response, and legal pathways to promote a safe, orderly, and humane migration.
The U.S. must also commit to sustained efforts to address the root causes of migration, in particular gender-based violence and violence against children. KIND urges the Biden Administration to invest in programs that prioritize child protection and engage women and youth so that people will not need to flee their home countries to survive. Programs that engage youth, children, and women are essential to the success of the Administration’s root causes strategy and should be at the center of implementation efforts.
The Los Angeles Declaration on Migration is an important step forward in creating a shared commitment to address migration in a way that promotes the rights of migrants and the underlying causes of migration. However, it is impossible to ignore that while the U.S. government signed on to the Declaration, it continues to expel migrants and asylum seekers from its borders under the unlawful Title 42 policy and force asylum seekers to remain in Mexico under the expanded Migrant Protection Protocols. KIND urges the Biden Administration to forcefully fight against these unlawful, unjust, and unsafe policies and take immediate actions to protect those who need it most.
The Declaration is an important step toward a regional effort to address migration in a humane way that respects the rights of migrants. But the United States must lead by example and uphold laws at its borders for those seeking protection.