|“JRS will continue to advocate for a process that recognizes the horrific trauma many of these children and families have suffered, and gives them the time and support they need to share their stories and access meaningful protection.” ~ Mary Small, Assistant Director for Policy at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.|
(Washington, D.C.) July 24, 2014— Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and more than 300 faith-based organizations delivered a letter to President Barack Obama and Members of Congress today urging protection, care and legal counsel for the thousands of Central American children who have fled escalating violence, conflict and exploitation in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Today's letter follows yesterday's open letter to Members of Congress from leading human rights, development, and faith-based organizations calling on legislators to address the humanitarian crisis.
Forty national faith organizations alongside 269 regional and local groups from 42 states today wrote:
We strongly object to proposals to detain families with children and 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.
The letter articulates clear policy recommendations for Congress and the Administration and calls for:
• Strengthening the humanitarian response in the U.S.
• Legal counsel for all unaccompanied children
• No roll backs to the provisions of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 relating to unaccompanied children
• Cost-effective community-based alternatives to detention
• Adequate services for children, refugees and all groups under the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement
"Here at JRS/USA, we are particularly concerned about children traveling alone, families, and people who are seeking asylum or other forms of protection. We will continue to advocate for a process that recognizes the horrific trauma many of these children and families have suffered, and gives them the time and support they need to share their stories and access meaningful protection," said Mary Small, Assistant Director for Policy at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.
In addition, the faith groups urge the U.S. government to address the root causes of the crisis faced by children in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The letter calls for increased regional programs to improve governance, fight corruption, create witness protection programs, secure women's shelters, and build a strong infrastructure for child welfare so that children and families can live free from fear in their home countries.
This letter follows a petition on unaccompanied children now signed by more than 4,400 people of faith that was hand-delivered to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.Read the letter here.
Learn more about Jesuit Refugee Service/USA's response to this humanitarian crisis