Statement of Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director, Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center
With the announcement that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has relaunched raids of Central American mothers and children who came to the United States fleeing harm, the Obama administration demonstrates a lack of vision and heart.
Claims by the administration that the families targeted in this new round of raids have exhausted their due process are undermined by the reality that many families have had to proceed without attorneys and in many cases, including those of families represented by Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), ICE has failed to provide proper notice of hearings.
The pervasive violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle requires a humanitarian response, not overzealous enforcement targeting children and families. In February, 275 organizations sent a letter to President Obama asking his administration to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, to temporarily protect them from being deported to unsafe conditions. In recent years, El Salvador and Honduras have alternated the title for murder capital of the world. For the past six years, all three countries have ranked within the world’s top four countries for rates of femicide, while El Salvador and Guatemala have had the highest homicide rates in the world among children.
Since the spring of 2014, approximately 90 percent of mothers and children apprehended at the border have demonstrated they have a credible fear of persecution, a critical first step in seeking asylum. The U.S. government recognized that those fleeing the region are refugees when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the U.S. would partner with the United Nations to provide both in-country refugee screenings for certain children and third-country refugee processing for others in the region. Unfortunately, these programs have taken painfully long to get up and running. Families who continue to flee for their lives and make it to the United States find it impossible to navigate the complex U.S. asylum and immigration system.
NIJC encourages individuals and families who fear they may be at risk of deportation to seek legal counsel and understand their rights and legal status. More information about how individuals can protect their rights is available on NIJC's website.