JANUARY 12th, 2016—We, as Central American organizations and allies who have collectively worked closely with hundreds of Central American refugee mothers, children, and families since January 2014, including the mothers who went on hunger strike in 2015 at Karnes Detention Center to demand their own freedom, call on the Obama Administration to meet the following demands immediately:
- HALT THE INHUMANE DEPORTATION OF REFUGEE FAMILIES: Stop the raids carried out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) across the country to deport refugee families, and stop incarcerating refugee families in private, for-profit detention centers. These raids and the incarceration of families in detention centers are inhumane, immoral, a violation of the human rights of these families, and are causing more harm and irreparable trauma[i]. We once again strongly urge the Obama Administration to uphold the Flores Settlement of 1997, which sets standards for the detention of minors with which the current government practice does not comply[ii].
- RECOGNIZE CENTRAL AMERICAN ASYLUM SEEKERS AS REFUGEES AND ACKNOWLEDGE THE ROOT CAUSES OF THE CRISIS: Stop denying Central American asylum seekers refugee status, and protect these families in accordance with Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention, an international law widely accepted around the world that clearly states that refugees cannot be sent back to a country where they will be persecuted[iii]. The denial of refugee status to these families is a clear violation of the general spirit of the document, which seeks to protect families and individuals who face extreme peril in their home countries. Although there is no question that many Central American asylum seekers’ lives are in danger, U.S. law specifically denies asylum to Central Americans where it would grant protection to those from other countries facing similar, or identical, threats to their lives or freedom. Without access to counsel, these vulnerable refugees have little chance of navigating the complex – and political – case law governing Central American asylum claims[iv]. Since 2014, at least 83 individuals deported back to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have been murdered upon their return, all of whom passed their credible fear interviews but were ultimately denied refugee status[v]. We openly denounce this decades-old tactic of discriminating against and denying Central Americans refugee status, and demand that the Obama Administration do everything in its power to revert it, including by providing access to counsel for families fleeing persecution.
- PROVIDE DEPORTATION RELIEF FOR FAMILIES WITH PENDING ASYLUM CASES: As we work to uphold due process for refugee families, we also demand that the Obama Administration provide immediate protection from deportation through relief similar, but not limited to, Temporary Protection Status (TPS). We say “not limited to” TPS because we recognize that TPS as a policy has been problematic, in that it has created a permanent underclass of recipients living in the U.S. for almost 20 years with limited legal status, where they are not able to petition for family members, including their children, do not have a path to citizenship and full civic participation, and are not recognized as valuable members of U.S. society despite their consistent contributions to our community. Although we do not want to make the same mistakes in offering temporary protection to newly-arrived refugees, we must protect families from deportation while we work to make the asylum system more just.
- SUPPORT EFFORTS AND RESOURCES TO HEAL REFUGEE TRAUMA: Support any and all efforts to address this human rights crisis through a holistic approach that encourages healing and social integration of children and families. Allocation of funding and resources beyond legal representation is imperative. This includes, but is not limited to, mental health services, access to education, family support counseling, and other necessary social services essential to stabilizing children and their families, and to support their healthy and successful transition into U.S. society.
- STOP THE CONTINUED CRIMINALIZATION OF CENTRAL AMERICANS: Stop the blatant criminalization of Central American refugee mothers, children, and families when they are deemed a “threat to national security” and deported to send a "deterrent" message to other Central American countries. Historically, this tactic has not worked and will not work until the root causes of migration from Central America to the United States are addressed, which includes acknowledging the U.S.’s central role in the creation of the violence and instability in the region that has led to this human rights crisis.
- DEFUND BORDER MILITARIZATION IN CENTRAL AMERICA AND MEXICO: Stop funding to Central America and Mexico for increased border militarization, including policies such as the Alliance for Prosperity of the Northern Triangle, a policy extension of CARSI (Central America Regional Security Initiative) which makes an outsized investment in increased border surveillance and police training at the expense of social development programs[vi]. The U.S. should discontinue funding of the Plan Frontera Sur, through which the U.S. government seeks to stem Central American migration by paying the Mexican government to deport refugees before they reach the U.S.[vii]. From October 2014 to April 2015, Mexico deported 92,889 Central Americans, which is almost double the 49,893 it deported in the same period the year before[viii]. There is ample evidence that Mexico’s asylum policies violate refugees’ due process rights under the 1951 Refugee Convention, and that pro-militarization policies only increase human rights violations in the region without addressing the root causes of migration.
Central American community and allies, including:
National Day Laborer Organizing Network
Immigrant Youth Coalition
California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance
ICE Out of LA
Centro Presente en Boston
Latino and Latino Roundtable of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valley
[i] Lovato, Roberto. “Central American deportees fear yet more trauma and violence back home.” Central American deportees fear yet more trauma and violence back home. The Guardian, 6 Jan. 2016. Web. 6 Jan. 2016. <http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/06/central-american-deportees-fear-trauma-violence-back-home>.
[ii] Flores v. Meese <https://www.aclu.org/files/pdfs/immigrants/flores_v_meese_agreement.pdf>
[iii] Refugee Convention 1951.
[iv] Abrego, Leisy; Coll, Kathleen, and Negron-Gonzalez, Genevieve. “Instead of Mass Deportations, We Need a Moratorium.” Instead of Mass Deportations, We Need a Moratorium. Huffington Post, 11 Jan 2016. Web 11 Jan 2016.
[v] Brodzinsky, Sibylla, and Ed Pilkington. “US Government Deporting Central American Migrants to Their Deaths.” US Government Deportation Central American Migrants To Their Deaths. The Guardian, 12 Oct. 2015. Web. 7 Jan. 2016. <http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/oct/12/obama-immigration-deportations-central-america>.
[vi] Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle: A Road Map. Sep. 2014.
[vii] Main, Alexander. “Will Biden’s Billion Dollar Plan Help Central America?” Will Biden’s Billion Dollar Plan Help Central America? NACLA, 27 Feb. 2015. Web 6 Jan 2016.
[viii] Tuckman, Jo. “Mexico’s migration crackdown escalates dangers for Central Americans.” Mexico’s migration crackdown escalates dangers for Central Americans. The Guardian, 6 Jan. 2016. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.
< http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/13/mexico-central-american-migrants-journey-crackdown >.