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Washington, DC – The influx of child refugees fleeing violence at the U.S. border has solicited a wide variety of responses from the Obama Administration and Congress alike.
Today, in the wake of Tuesday’s House Homeland Security Committee and ahead of this afternoon’s dual House Hearings in both the House Judiciary Committee and House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, human rights, immigration policy and legal experts gathered on a press call to set the facts straight and offer their reactions to the recent developments surrounding this ongoing humanitarian issue.
According to Most Reverend Mark J. Seitz, Bishop Diocese of El Paso, Texas, who will serve as witness to today’s 2pm House Judiciary Committee hearing, “This issue should not be looked at as an occasion for political posturing, but as an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation. We cannot turn our backs on these children. It is a moral test of the character of our nation which we must not fail.”
Said Leslie E. Vélez, Senior Protection Officer at United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), “As crime and violence dramatically increased in the Americas region, we found a strong link between this unabated situation, new displacement patterns and the children’s reasons for leaving their homes and families to flee. Knowing this, the UN refugee agency is activated to work with the US-and other governments in the Americas -to ensure that people are never returned to situations where they fear persecution without access to proper asylum procedures. Identifying them is the immediate first step to a humanitarian response.”
In light of recent developments, the experts also discussed how administrative and congressional policies should be informed going forward.
As Wendy Young, President of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), said, “These children must have attorneys to help them make their case in immigration court so that those who are eligible and deserving of US protection are not sent back to their home countries where their lives may be in danger. We cannot be a nation that allows children to appear in court alone, particularly when the stakes are so high.”
“The United States can manage this situation, with innovative alternatives to detention,” added Michelle Brané, Director of Migrant Rights and Justice at the Women’s Refugee Commission, “Alternatives to detention are more humane and easier to manage than locking families in detention centers. They are also much cheaper and still enable the government to keep tabs on people who are waiting for their cases to be decided.”