Washington, DC, January 7, 2016—KIND is deeply concerned that unaccompanied children will soon be targeted in national raids which to date have rounded up families from Central America and taken them into custody for imminent deportation. The Obama Administration is deporting these families and unaccompanied children to a region in which the violence from which they fled is increasing exponentially; these actions will result in sending many back to grave harm, or even death.
The New York Times recently reported that killings grew 70 percent last year in El Salvador, which means El Salvador will likely become the murder capital of the world, unseating Honduras which had been the most violent and now will be second, behind El Salvador. Guatemala is close behind, as the sixth most violent country in the world. A large number of the recently arrived families and unaccompanied children in the U.S. are potentially eligible for protection under U.S. immigration laws. However, many do not have an attorney to help them make their case. Without attorneys, it is nearly impossible for them to navigate our exceedingly complex immigration system. Children with attorneys are five times more likely to gain protection.
No removals should take place, even for those with final removal orders, without confirming that those involved had fair hearings, which includes ensuring that each person targeted for removal had legal representation during their proceedings, adequate time to prepare their case for adjudication, notice of their hearing, and a fair, full and objective hearing. They must also know of their right to appeal any decision to the Department of Justice Board of Immigration Appeals. In KIND’s experience, the overwhelming majority of Central American children have demonstrated a fear of violence that renders them eligible for protection under U.S. immigration law.
The Administration has repeatedly said that it is conducting these raids to deter others from coming to the U.S. This policy clearly has not worked, as the number of families and children alone has risen significantly again despite more elaborate border controls in the U.S., Mexico, and in sending countries. When mothers are desperate to save their children’s lives and children see only violence in their future, deportation will not deter them.
If it is determined that they can return home safely and sustainably, unaccompanied children and families who are deported must receive assistance upon their return to their home countries. For unaccompanied children, the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 requires that such assistance must include family reunification and reintegration services that help them stay in their countries safely. Without this support, families and children are vulnerable to trafficking or other abuses as they flee the same and worsening violence.
It is unconscionable that the U.S. response to a humanitarian crisis that involves unaccompanied children and families is to round them up and force them to return to countries where they fear for their lives.
The U.S. is targeting the most vulnerable immigrants to show that it is tough on immigration enforcement, but by singling out families and children, it is only showing weakness and fear. True leadership emanates from acting upon strong values however difficult it may be. Through its actions, the Obama administration is betraying the values upon which our country was founded and setting a disturbing example for other countries that are hosting refugee populations.
For more information, contact Megan McKenna, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-631-9990.