Advocates Rally to Protect Refugee Children

Children of Immigrants

An influx of unaccompanied child migrants are arriving at out nation’s border. Thousands of children are fleeing Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. An estimated 57,000 left their countries to date escaping gang violence, rape, kidnapping, and murder. Children as young as 7-years-old have made the treacherous journey to the southern border, where they are being detained by U.S. border patrol. These unaccompanied children, including younger children and more girls than ever before, are seeking refuge in the United States and other countries in the region.

First Focus joined partnering advocacy organizations such as Amnesty InternationalWe Belong Together, and the American Civil Liberties Union to remind our nation’s leaders that we must protect these children. Yesterday afternoon, advocates gathered in front of the White House urging President Obama to protect refugee children. With chants such as “Obama, Obama, Protect Our Children,” advocates stood in front of members of media, constituents, voters and tourists urging our nation’s leaders to make the best interest of the child a priority when addressing this humanitarian situation.

Wendy Cervantes, Director of the First Focus Center for the Children of Immigrants, called on Congress and the President to preserve child protections and not undermine child safety in the name of expediency or politics. Cervantes highlighted the importance of not deporting any child until we can be assured that they are going back to a stable and safe home. Wendy stated, “The bottom line is that every child deserves protection, no matter where they come from. This is a time to show compassion and honor our American values of putting children first.”

President Obama has proposed $3.7 billion dollars in emergency funding. Members of Congress have expressed different views on how they plan to handle the current humanitarian situation. Many recent proposals have threatened to roll back critical protections for children, including their right to a hearing, in order to speed up the deportation process. For example, Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Representative Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) have proposed the HUMANE Act (S 2611/HR 5114). This legislation would accelerate the deportation process for children, put child safety at risk, and expand border enforcement. Another recent bill known as the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act (HR 5137), by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), would go even further and prohibit any federal funds for legal counsel for children and make the standard more difficult for all asylum claims.

As a nation, it is essential that we work together and protect the lives of these unaccompanied children. The next weeks will be crucial in determining the appropriate actions that need to be taken in order to protect them from the dangerous conditions they are fleeing. . We will continue to stand together and demand Congress and President Obama to protect child refugees.

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