The desperation of poverty, violence, and separation is causing families to risk the dangerous journey from Central America to the US border to protect their children. This is yet another manifestation of the global displacement of people by decades of war, natural disasters, drug violence, and crushing poverty.
The White House has responded by asking Congress for nearly 4 billion dollars for more enforcement, instead of sending the children to the Department of Health and Human Services for services or releasing them to their families, as the law now requires. The President wants to expedite deportation of the children: “Additional steps to enhance enforcement and removal proceedings … will allow ICE to return unlawful migrants from Central America to their home countries more quickly.”
This is an injustice. Four billion more for streamlining deportations, is not the humanitarian response we need. We should instead provide refuge for those children who are the victims of our government’s past destructive policies. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) have undermined local economies in Mexico and Central America for decades. When NAFTA took effect in 1994, 4.6 million people born in Mexico lived north of the border. Now it’s about 12.5 million. And more have come from Central America because of wars the U.S. promoted in the 1980s, and our disastrous ‘war on drugs’ that has included U.S. support for the military and police in those countries. These are the real causes of migration for which the US bears significant historical responsibility.
We call on President Obama to act on the side of human rights and justice. The US has a responsibility to respond with access to due process, refuge and support. Our starting point should be what is in the best interests of the children. They should not be placed in detention. They should not be deported back to the unsafe and poverty stricken conditions from which they are fleeing. These children should be provided refugee status and reunited with family members.
Expedited removals and more deportations will not alleviate this humanitarian crisis. The real solutions lie in ending NAFTA and CAFTA, and ending support for the military and police disguised as a ‘war on drugs’.
We welcome and commend Mayor Stephanie A. Miner of Syracuse, New York for offering sanctuary for the migrant children and pointing to the need to address the “ . . . larger global issues causing them to leave home . . .” We call on other cities will do the same.