There is a refugee emergency in Central America, and, to deal with it effectively, we need to treat it as a refugee emergency. Central American kids and families are fleeing horrific violence, gangs and rape. El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are among the most murderous countries in the world.
Today, House Democrats joined their Senate colleagues to introduce legislation that recognizes these realities and responds with a series of well thought-out strategies that combine immediate protection for refugees – in the region and in the United States – and permanent solutions for the societies refugees are fleeing. The House bill was introduced by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-M.D.), John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Theodore E. Deutch (D-Fla.), Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), Norma J. Torres (D-Calif.), Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).The original co-sponsors of the Senate bill included Senators Reid (D- Nev.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Schumer (D-N.Y.), Murray (D-Wash.), Leahy (D-Vt.), Carper (D-Del.) and Cardin (D-Md.). The “Secure the Northern Triangle Act” resets our country’s approach to Central American refugees by doing the following:
- Expand efforts to deal with the root causes of the refugee situation – horrific violence in the sending countries, especially targeting women and children;
- Work with our allies to provide safe haven in Central America and Mexico so those fleeing can find protection in the region;
- Expand orderly resettlement programs – from within El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, and from the neighboring countries of first asylum, so that those seeking to join family in America have workable alternatives to making the dangerous journey to the U.S.-Mexico border, and other countries in the hemisphere can provide resettlement opportunities as needed;
- Ensure each applicant for protection in the U.S. receives a full and fair process here in America – particularly the most vulnerable: unaccompanied children.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:
“This bill gets it right. This is a refugee emergency that requires a regional approach, not an immigration control challenge that starts at our border. Most of those fleeing the northern triangle countries of Central America are refugees in need of protection. They should be able to find safety in the region, family reunification through an orderly process if called for, and a full and fair process for asylum decisions in the U.S. — decisions that can amount to matters of life and death. Moreover, the bill does, as the U.S. should, focus on the root causes so that sooner rather than later the underlying causes of this refugee emergency are addressed and people can live safe and productive lives in their home countries.
Unfortunately, the Obama Administration views this situation through the lens of immigration control and as a result, focuses on deterrence, detention and deportation. Deterring refugees who are fleeing for their lives and deporting refugees to the violence they escaped is unconscionable. We hope the Administration listens to Senate Democrats and adopts a strategy that is both humane and practical.”