Dear U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson,
As a member of MomsRising.org, a family advocacy organization with over a million members across our nation, I am dismayed at the way the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has decided to respond to the humanitarian crisis in the Northern Triangle of Central America: force asylum-seeking women and children out of their homes in ICE raids. Not only are these families fleeing some of the most violent areas in the world and have not had full due process under the law -- including adequate legal representation -- but we are further traumatizing children. This is inhumane, un-American and unacceptable.
Let’s get one thing straight here: The children from Central America seeking safety on our shores are asylum seekers. They are fleeing what has become known as the Northern Triangle of Central America, parts of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. This region has the most homicides and is considered the most violent in the Western hemisphere.
In fact, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – a part of the Department of Homeland Security, found that 88 percent of these mothers and children had credible fear that meets the threshold for qualifying for asylum. Yet, almost none of them have received adequate legal representation. Shockingly, 80 percent of all refugee children from Central America continue to face their hearings alone. Imagine a child of three or four years old trying to make their case for protection without help.
I am raising my voice to say that ALL mothers and children need to be treated with respect and fairness on our shores. I urge you to stop the inhumane treatment of children and families, such as the current DHS raids on refugees from Central America that are happening right now in the name of immigration law enforcement. Decency, fairness, and humanity require that we protect the well-being of children from Central America seeking asylum in the United States and ensure that they are granted full due process under the law, including adequate legal representation.
It’s time for DHS to adopt practices that both respect our laws and the dignity of children seeking refuge in the United States, such as the following:
• Placing child welfare experts and social workers on the border for screening children and other vulnerable individuals; those who’ve been traumatized by violence should be screened by trained professionals, not by customs border patrol agents.
• Strengthening the court system capacity to review cases and ensure due process.
• Recognizing that it’s not unlawful to seek asylum at our borders—children and families seeking refuge at our borders have every right to do so under current law and should not be treated as criminals.
• Upholding the best interest of the child in all decisions involving children.
Contrary to DHS’s actions, forcibly removing children from their beds at 4 a.m. in the morning is not who we are as a people or a country. We are a better nation that this. We must remain true to our country’s values of treating people who are fleeing for fear of their lives and from horrific abuse with dignity and respect, while ensuring due process under the law.
Please reconsider this course of action against asylum seekers from Central America. Sincerely,