The following letter was coordinated by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition. The letter is being sent to the President and Members of Congress today, July 18. Pax Christi USA is a signatory to the letter.
Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress,
Our faith traditions challenge us to welcome the immigrant through scriptures such as Leviticus 19:34, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.” Many of our organizations are living out this command by working tirelessly in bus stations and shelters to assist vulnerable children and families coming from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and in ministries dedicated to human rights and sustainable development in the Northern Triangle.
While we appreciate the U.S. government’s attention to the humanitarian crisis faced by migrants from Central America, we strongly object to proposals to detain families with children and to any move to roll back the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) in order to effect expeditious deportations. Forcibly and hurriedly returning people in need of international protection back to the dangerous situations they fled without adequate due process would undermine our obligations under international law and our position as a global humanitarian leader and would be a moral disgrace.
As we read through the Administration’s supplemental appropriations request, we are pleased to see an increase in funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), as increased funding is needed so that ORR can adequately serve both unaccompanied children and refugees. However, we urge Congress to provide more funds in the supplemental to increase legal services for unaccompanied children in the United States and enhance programs to reduce violence in sending countries so that individuals, particularly children and families, are not forced to undertake dangerous journeys in the first place. We are also deeply concerned about language in the supplemental request that would discourage persecuted individuals in Central America from seeking asylum and protection, and that would expand the detention of children and families without addressing the unacceptable conditions of these facilities. Additionally, we oppose any proposals that would restrict these children’s access to life-saving protection or return them to unsafe situations in which they could be further exploited.
This is a regional humanitarian crisis, not a U.S. immigration enforcement problem. Since 2009 asylum requests by Hondurans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans seeking refuge in Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Belize have increased sharply. In fact, compared to 2008, UNHCR registered a 712% increase in the number of asylum applications in the region in 2013. Many of the Central Americans arriving in the United States today are people primarily fleeing violence. The current crisis thus demands both a humanitarian response in the short-term and, in the long-term, policies to address complex root causes…