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.