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America’s Voice Education Fund Responds to Reports of Central American Teenagers Targeted in Immigration Raids

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Last night, we learned that the Obama administration has ramped up efforts targeting young people who fled violence, for deportation. In Raleigh, North Carolina, a high school student who left Honduras in 2014 was arrested on his parents’ front steps and faces deportation to that crime-ravaged nation.  In Charlotte, young men who fled violence in El Salvador were also picked up under similar circumstances.  This latest development exacerbates the fears that erupted when ICE raids targeting mothers and children began earlier this month, and puts the lives of these young men in danger.

Following is a statement from Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:

It shocks the conscience that we are tearing young people away from their parents and a future to send them back to countries where nothing but violence and tragedy awaits them.

The Obama administration has not developed a coherent strategy to deal with the Central American crisis. Instead, they’ve opted for headlines about deporting women and children as a way to thwart a new wave of refugees. What has happened instead is an outbreak of fear among immigrant communities and forced return of vulnerable people to extremely dangerous countries.

Key to understanding what’s happening here is that this is not an immigration issue. It’s a refugee crisis and should be handled as such. Due process is critical. When the prospect of a return to such violence is at stake, we need to make sure every possible avenue for protection is exhausted. And, there are different forms of relief available to many of the people who have been targeted by ICE.

What’s also striking is the fact that the President referenced “Central American teenagers running from gang violence” in a speech delivered at a naturalization event on December 15, 2015. Yet, within weeks, those teenagers were targeted for deportation by the President’s staff. As a nation, we need to be looking for every available option to protect these people, not sending them back to extreme violence. That was the President’s message on December 15 and it should be heeded by his staff.

The White House has engaged in an aggressive pushback against the idea that it is conducting raids. This week, Vice President Biden told House Democrats that there were no raids, a sentiment echoed by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. But attempting to change the language doesn’t change the situation. This isn’t a matter of “spin” in immigrant communities where the fear has already been sown and is real and valid. And, it doesn’t change the extremely dangerous situations in Central American countries to which our government would send these young people.

In 2016, the last thing we thought we’d be dealing with is ICE raids and the deportation of young men and women, children, and parents to horrific violence. But, here we are. There’s no doubting the gravity of the situations there. The U.S. Government won’t even send Peace Corps volunteers to El Salvador — where the murder rate has increased 70% from last year — because it’s too dangerous (and they had already pulled out of Honduras in 2012).  This week, the police commissioner of Honduras announced he was leaving the country because of threats against him.

This is literally a matter of life and death for men, women, and children. There’s no way the U.S. Government should be complicit in sending individuals back to their deaths.