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New Refugee Resettlement Program for Central Americans Is the Right Thing to Do; Home Raids & Deportations Back to the Region Are the Wrong Thing to Do

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The Contradiction Between Protecting Asylum-Seekers and Deporting Asylum-Seekers is Profound

The New York Times reports that the Obama Administration is working with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to set up a regional refugee resettlement program in Central America.  It shows a recognition that those fleeing death, rape and extortion in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala deserve protection—either protection in surrounding countries or resettlement out of the region.  But the news is hard to reconcile with an Obama Administration initiative to conduct home raids and railroads for deportation vulnerable mothers and children who have fled the very same violence.  It is the height of cognitive dissonance to start an initiative to protect asylum-seekers in the region while deporting asylum-seekers from the United States.

The Times reports on details of the new initiative:

“Designed to head off migrants from three violence-torn countries in the region before they start traveling to the United States, the new refugee resettlement program will be announced by Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday in Washington. Under the plan, the United Nations refugee agency will work with the United States to set up processing centers in several nearby countries, where migrants would be temporarily out of danger…The administration decided to press for a formal refugee program, the officials said, after concluding that the epidemic of violence by international criminal gangs in the three countries had reached crisis proportions and required a broader regional response.”

Given the scope of the undertaking, we are unlikely to see significant numbers of Central American refugees aided by the newly-announced program in the near future.  Meanwhile, and in the interim, the home raids and deportations are taking vulnerable Central American families back to the violence they fled, while spreading fear throughout the entire immigrant community.  The raids have sparked a revolt from Congressional Democrats, with the vast majority of the House Democratic caucus signing onto a new letter condemning the raids and the fear the raids have stoked in the immigrant community.  In the Senate, Minority Leader Harry Reid expressed hope for a “pause” on the raids yesterday.  And all of the Democratic presidential contenders have each come out in opposition to the raids.  Meanwhile, immigrant communities are responding to the terror caused by the raids by organizing self-defense efforts and advocating for an immediate halt to the raids and deportations.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “It is a positive step that the U.S. government is officially recognizing that there is a Central American refugee crisis being driven by widespread violence and that the appropriate response is a UN-backed refugee protection and resettlement program.  However, it is contradictory that the same Administration is defending home raids and deportation for those already in America who are fleeing the same death, threats and sexual violence.  Instead of flawed processes, home raids and accelerated deportations, vulnerable Central American refugees in America deserve special care – such as enhanced due process and Temporary Protected Status – given that decisions regarding the fate of Central Americans can be a matter of life and death.”