Central American Organizations & Allies Respond to Recent ICE Raids Targeting Refugee Mothers, Children, and Families
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 Customs and Enforcement (ICE) across the country to deport refugee families, and stop re-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 ITS ROOT CAUSES: 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 by calling them a “threat to national security” and deporting them in order 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 & 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 Mortaorium.” 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.<http://idbdocs.iadb.org/wsdocs/getdocument.aspx?docnum=39224238>
[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.lifestyle-pharmacy.com/ <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/13/mexico-central-american-migrants-journey-crackdown>.
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Administration Falls Short on Humane Response for Unaccompanied Minors Traveling to the U.S.
(June 25, 2014, Los Angeles) – CARECEN Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington DC call for a coordinated humanitarian response to the thousands of unaccompanied minors arriving at the U.S. border. CARECEN will work 1) to ensure that these children have adequate legal representation and support services, 2) to advocate for humane policies that protect their lives and 3) to promote coordination at the regional level with the governments of Central America, the U.S. and Mexico that begins to address the long term root causes of this crisis.
All three organizations were formed in the 80’s as a response to the influx of immigrants fleeing the civil wars in Central America. Their legacy and mission of advancing immigrant integration and fighting for the rights of the community continues to this day. The organizations have established themselves as credible institutions in their local communities and continue to coordinate national efforts that impact their members and the Central American and Latino immigrant communities.
The recent increase in detained minors urges a coordinated response from our organizations to work with local partners and coalitions in order to adequately serve the affected children and their families. The influx of unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, attempting to enter the United States has grown at an alarming rate from just below 25,000 last year to the 90,000 that are expected to travel to the United States this year. The conditions in which these minors are held are distressing. Overcrowding and lack of hygiene are prominent. Detention centers have reached capacity and minors are now being transferred to facilities in other states, increasing the difficulty of being reunited with their loved ones.“I am from Honduras and just turned 16 years old,” said Juan. “I came after my father was murdered and I feared for my life because I knew I was next. If I go back I’m not sure if I can survive and live a good life. I want to go to school and live so I can grow up and do something good.”
Contrary to the notion that the increase in migrating youth is a result of the marketing of amnesty by coyotes, most youth are escaping lives of insecurity, poverty and recruitment by gangs. The majority of youth traveling to the United States leave behind the ravaging poverty of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere like Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. These countries have also seen a frightening increase in gang violence. Children who refuse to join a gang risk being assaulted or even killed. Youth fleeing to the United States face tremendous risks during their journey and many do not reach their destination.
Recently, President Obama has called for a comprehensive approach to the problem. He has recruited various departments to attempt a comprehensive solution to the thousands of youth currently being detained. Although this approach is a step in the right direction, it is not enough. CARECEN stands with all other organizations who have asked President Obama to declare a state of emergency. In addition, the most immediate concerns and demands are:
- The Administration’s humane treatment of the thousands of minors being detained. This is not a problem that requires a military response. Instead, we urge the administration to find humanitarian solutions that address the children’s needs and trauma. CARECEN strongly urges the administration to expedite the release process and re-duce detention time to the minimum amount of time possible, and to immediately stop housing children in industrial warehouses, bases or other environments inappropriate for already traumatized minors.
- No child should face court alone and without legal representation. All children who are detained or face removal proceedings must be guaranteed legal representation. CARECEN urges the president to direct an increase of re-sources toward this purpose, and to ensure representation during all and any stage of the process.
- We urge local, state and federal government to seek real solutions and institute humane policies that guarantee these minors protections including family reunification, protective status and other appropriate and relevant solutions to stabilize their lives and guarantee their safety.
- Investment in comprehensive social integration services for these children that address their traumas and help them become healthy and contributing members of their community.
Martha Arevalo, CARECEN Los Angeles Executive Director
Lariza Dugan-Cuadra, CARECEN San Francisco Executive Director
Abel Nunez, CARECEN Washington DC Executive Director
Launch of Campaign to Secure Permanent Residence for Central Americans with Temporary Protected Status
On Monday, January 30, 2012, CARECEN DC joined more than 20 organizations in 15 states to launch the national campaign for Permanent Residence for Central Americans currently holding Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The press conference took place at the Mickey Leland Federal Building in Houston, Texas. Organizers made a call to members of the TPS community, legislators, community organizations and activists, congregations and faith leaders, unions, and all those who support a fair and viable solution for immigrant families in the U.S. to come together and support this campaign.
Nearly 14 years ago, Central America was hit with several devastating natural disasters that had a significant impact on communities throughout the region and led to hundreds of thousands of Central American families establishing roots in the United States. In 1998 Hurricane Mitch, one of the deadliest hurricanes in Central American history, ravaged Honduras and Nicaragua and resulted in the collapse of physical infrastructure and the loss and displacement of thousands of residents. Due to this devastation, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was designated to both Honduras and Nicaragua in 1999.
The 2001 earthquakes in El Salvador resulted in the loss of over 1,000 lives and resulted in the displacement of thousands more. In addition, the earthquakes led to extensive destruction of the nation’s physical infrastructure and caused severe damage to the country’s economy. Reconstruction efforts in El Salvador were hindered by subsequent hurricanes including Stan (2005), Felix (2007), Ida (2009) and, most recently, Tropical Rain E12 (2011).
Very recently, the Secretary of Homeland Security determined that the conditions that prompted the original designation of TPS in these nations continue to be met, and that an extension of TPS to immigrants for another 18 months was warranted. These nations are still characterized by inadequate or fragile infrastructure and weak economies that at this moment would be unable to handle the return of nationals from the U.S. adequately.
TPS has allowed its beneficiaries to remain in the U.S. and maintain their status, provided that they complete a mandatory renewal process every 18 months. The costs associated with this renewal are high and burdensome for many families. Thousands of families who have lived here nearly a decade or more remain in a state of limbo because their status could expire at the conclusion of their 18 month period of valid status. Currently, TPS beneficiaries from Central America include approximately 64,000 Hondurans, 212,000 Salvadorans, and 3,000 Nicaraguans, according to the Federal Register. The only way to secure a more stable and safe future for them is to enable them to become Permanent Residents and put them on the path to U.S. Citizenship.
While comprehensive immigration reform is not foreseeable in the near future and the current administration has adopted a step-by-step approach in tackling unfair and confusing immigration practices, community organizations from throughout the country have formed a coalition to advocate for legislative action that will allow TPS holders to stay in the U.S. as permanent residents.
We come together to support vibrant futures for families that have not only contributed to our national economy but have been a critical and positive force in the reconstruction of their home countries by sending remittances to family members. These families are productive members of our society with the same dreams and hopes as many of us. They have worked very hard to provide for their families, buy their first homes here in the U.S., and open their own businesses. Every 18 months during the renewal process, they have gone through background checks and have proved that they are law-abiding and of good moral character and that they pay their income taxes annually.
It is critical to understand that TPS, an important but temporary immigration benefit, is not the path towards self-sufficient, stable immigrant communities. Permanent Residency is the only solution to ensure the progress of our families, communities, and nation, and end the uncertainty that these thousands of families are living everyday.
The Campaign for Permanent Residence is a joint effort of the following organizations: The SHARE Foundation (Berkley, CA); Oregon’s Latino Immigrant Rights Coalition, Causa (Salem, OR); CARECEN-DC; CARECEN-LA; Centro Romero (Chicago, IL); Illinois Immigrant and Refugees Coalition (Chicago, IL); Sunflower Community Action (Wichita, KS); East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (Berkley, CA); Voluntarios por El Salvador (Houston, TX); Comite Amigos en Accion (Houston, TX); Centro Civico Salvadoreno (Dallas, TX); Wind of the Spirit (NJ); Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (Chicago, IL); North Carolina Latin American Coalition (Charlotte, NC); and SALEF (Los Angeles, CA)
For more information please visit ResidencyNow.org