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Statement of Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director, National Immigrant Justice Center

Rather than uphold American values of protecting children, the majority in the House of Representatives voted late last night to pass legislation that attacks refugee children, women, and families, and abandons immigrant youth who have become entrenched in our communities.

With last night’s vote, House Republicans turned a cold shoulder to Central American child refugees who have endured unspeakable violence to give them a one-way ticket back to possible death. Their border-spending bill also would waste millions of dollars to further militarize the southern border. In a second malicious vote, House members voted to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and prohibit other administrative actions that could provide relief for undocumented youth who were raised in and have contributed to our nation.  Finally, it would deny immigrant survivors of domestic violence work authorization.

Our government must stop using Central American refugee children as political footballs. We are a nation that respects human rights and cares for children. The measures passed hastily in the House do not reflect the will of the American people; they are cruel and place children in harm’s way. A majority of Americans support treating these children as refugees and providing them shelter. A meaningful approach to the humanitarian emergency on the border must: 1) ensure that all children have meaningful opportunities to seek asylum; 2) provide all children with legal representation in immigration court; and 3) address the root causes of the dangers they are fleeing.
The National Immigrant Justice Center and its network of 1,500 pro bono attorneys has represented thousands of refugee children and families, as well young immigrants who have received temporary relief under DACA and battered immigrant women fleeing abuse. We have seen that without access to counsel and a fair hearing, children are at risk of being returned to dangerous situations and families face permanent separation and irreparable harm. NIJC is committed to supporting policies that honor our nation’s proud history of protecting those fleeing violence and war. Any changes to the law must be rooted in an appreciation for basic human rights and due process.