Obama Administration Plan to Resurrect Failed Raids and Deportations Policy to Deter Arrivals of Unaccompanied Refugee Children and Women Precisely Wrong Approach
Statement by KIND President Wendy Young
May 12, 2016—KIND strongly opposes the Obama Administration’s plans to conduct raids over the next two months to round up and deport hundreds of immigrant mothers and children back to Central America, as reported by Reuters today. The Administration is taking precisely the wrong approach to address the growing numbers of unaccompanied children and families coming to the U.S. seeking protection from the violence that is rampant in the Northern Triangle of Central America, which may equal or surpass the surge of 2014.
Many of these children and families are refugees fleeing violence that renders them potentially eligible for protection under both US and international law. The UN Refugee Agency, the world’s expert on forced migration, has found that 58 percent of unaccompanied children may qualify for refugee status.
The proposed operation could be the largest of its kind. Its focus on women and children is also unprecedented and a complete flouting of our nation’s values that will result in sending women children back to grave harm or possibly even death.
The Obama Administration’s strategy of trying to deter refugees through enforcement actions like raids has already proven to be unsuccessful. Despite the immigration raids that occurred in January 2016, children and families continue to flee their homes in search of safety in the U.S.
Although the Administration has been stressing that it is only targeting families and children with deportation orders, many received inadequate or no representation. The lack of representation was compounded by fast-tracked proceedings, fundamentally denying them access to a fair hearing grounded in due process. Moreover, because of expedited processing, many were not even notified about their court proceedings, leading to deportation orders without their case ever being heard.
It is no surprise that increasing numbers of children and families are once again coming to the U.S. The root causes of their flight—pervasive and growing violence by gangs and narco-traffickers—remain unaddressed and these children and families are fleeing for their lives. No amount of enforcement will stop those who have nothing else to lose. As a number of children referred to us have told us, “It was flee, or die.”
KIND is deeply disappointed that the Administration is prioritizing deportation over protection. It must recognize that this migration is a refugee crisis and not an immigration issue, and can be addressed effectively using a refugee protection framework. Prioritizing protection means ensuring that unaccompanied children have attorneys in their deportation proceedings so they have meaningful access to our U.S. immigration system.
The Administration is setting a dangerous example for the world, and for future U.S. policy. The U.S.’s global leadership in the protection of the most vulnerable is seriously at risk. And refugee and immigrant women and children will pay the price.
For more information, please contact Megan McKenna, email@example.com; 202-631-9990.