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Refugee, Legal, and Policy Experts Call on Obama Administration to Stop Speedy Deportations of Child Refugees

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Below is a release from today’s press call:

Children and Families Deserve Fair Hearings & Opportunity to Make Their Case for Protection

In the wake of reports that the Obama Administration is speeding up the deportations of children fleeing violence and their families without allowing them to make their case for protection, and in light of the alarming lack of due process in family detention facilities like Artesia in New Mexico, refugee, policy, and legal experts gathered on a press call today to react to these new developments; explain the urgency of allowing children who have faced horrid trauma to be able to have full and fair hearings; and discuss the potential deadly consequences of speeding up deportations for these children and families fleeing murder and rape.

Judge Dana Marks, the President of the National Association of Immigration Judges, was on hand to give introductory remarks to frame the process from the perspective of the judges who are responding to the uptick in children. She said:

The National Association of Immigration Judges is well aware that it is universally accepted that in the legal arena that children and juveniles are a vulnerable population with special needs.  Immigration Judges are in the best position to guarantee due process, as well as efficiently and fairly conduct proceedings, when they have the flexibility to balance the unique needs of the individual appearing in court with the American public’s interest in expeditious decisions on a case-by-case basis.

In addition, Stephen W Manning, who serves as the team leader for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) coordinated pro bono services at the Artesia Detention Center, shared his firsthand account of what’s happening on the ground:

This is why I’m an immigration attorney.  Knowing this crisis was happening and that the government was moving quickly to deport mothers and children without allowing for due process was something that I could not allow to happen.  So I decided to volunteer my time and represent as many families as I could to give them every opportunity to be allowed to stay in this country, to be able to connect with family members who may be living here, and not just be rushed on to a plane back to the countries they fled from to face certain danger.

According to Brian P. Moran, Senior Attorney at Paul Hastings:

The crisis at our border demands that those willing to respond do so compassionately and in a way that reflects the values of our society.  As lawyers and advocates, we play a vital role in addressing the legal and humanitarian needs of vulnerable children and families, and we cannot allow that role to be determined for us.  And we certainly cannot allow expedited or truncated procedures, the effect of which would be to either eliminate or severely compromise substantive due process rights, to be implemented.  To the extent possible, we need to work cooperatively in order to establish clear and fair criteria that recognize the unique needs and best interests of children so that just determinations become possible.

Added Michelle Brané, Director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission:

For Americans and people around the globe, the United States is a symbol of justice and due process. The world is watching as we respond to mothers, babies and children coming to us seeking protection. Turning our back on our traditions of justice and due process is not the answer. This is an opportunity to show what we are capable of.

To access a recording of today’s call, click HERE.