Frank Sharry: “Raids that terrorize communities, trample civil rights and separate families are something we would expect from a President Trump”
The following is a statement by Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice.
It’s official. The Obama Administration has begun home raids aimed at arresting, detaining and deporting young mothers and their children back to Central America and the violence they fled in the first place.
Raids that terrorize communities, trample civil rights and separate families are something we would expect from a President Trump. The very tactic – with teams of ICE officers showing up at someone’s home, unannounced, using deception to gain entry, waking up sleeping children and carting away both parents and kids – is repugnant. When this happened during the Bush presidency, then-candidate Obama denounced it. The fact that it is happening now under a President Obama is outrageous.
What’s more, the goal of these home raids is to deport vulnerable kids and their mothers to countries racked by rampant violence. One of the most fundamental principles of civilized societies, a principle fought for and defended by the United States, is this: we don’t send people back to places where their lives and liberty are threatened. Yet, that is what the U.S. is doing.
The Administration’s myopic, enforcement-centric view is fundamentally flawed. What’s happening in Central America is a refugee crisis. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration is looking through the wrong end of the telescope, viewing this as an immigration enforcement challenge instead. This is a regional refugee crisis that requires a regional response that integrates respect for human rights, safe haven for those fleeing violence and alleviation of root causes. Instead, it is being met with a unilateral and heavy-handed strategy of raids, detention, deportation, interdiction and deterrence – with very little, to no due process.
In addition to doing everything they can to expedite the deportation of Central Americans from the United States, the Administration has funded and implored Mexico and Central American nations to interdict and deport Central Americans before they reach the U.S.-Mexico border, without screening. In other parts of the world, when nations generate refugees the U.S. pressures and funds neighboring countries to provide safe harbor to those fleeing. In this situation, the U.S. is pressuring and funding neighboring countries to deport them back to danger and death.
The Northern Triangle nations of El Salvador and Honduras have the highest murder rates in the world. Guatemala is not far behind. Entire communities are controlled by powerful street gangs, known as Maras, that use threats, extortion, killings, forced recruitment and sexual violence against women and girls to exercise control. The violence has overwhelmed local institutions, where weak governance and corrupt officials make gang-controlled areas hubs for impunity. Most of us threatened by this uncontrolled violence would do the very same these young mothers and their children have done: seek safety for ourselves and our kids.
The Administration argues that they are targeting people who have been ordered removed from the country and have no pending appeals. They make it sound as if these individuals have been given meaningful due process and they failed to meet a legal test after a full and fair proceeding. But is it the case they received all the process that’s due? Did those targeted receive proper notice of their court date? Were they represented by legal counsel? Did they understand the law and their rights? Did they have their day in court? Did they have a fair right to appeal? These are the cornerstones of a full and fair process, and must be safeguarded for people facing the consequences of decisions that are literally matters of life or death. The experience of those who work closest with Central American families is that the vast majority of these families qualify for and obtain legal protection when they have a full and fair process; those that don’t are the families likely to be ordered deported.
What should be done? First, the U.S. must recognize that these vulnerable families are fleeing escalating violence and cannot avail themselves of the protection of their own states. Second, the Administration has many options to exercise to protect Central Americans in the U.S. who are in danger if returned, including but not limited to Temporary Protected Status. Third, the U.S. must work with the UN High Commission of Refugees and countries in the region to provide temporary safe haven for those in need of protection. Fourth, we need to focus on the root causes that compel people to leave. Congress just appropriated $750 million to do so, but much more should and can be done to change the factors that drive people to leave their homes.
An Administration that was truly committed to protecting human rights and maintaining its leadership role in worldwide refugee protection would be actively engaging in such strategies. Not this one. It’s raids, deportation and deterrence. It’s not about protecting refugees humanely, it’s about enforcing immigration laws aggressively.
Let’s be clear on the consequences of this approach. In October 2015 the Guardian reported that since January 2014 as many as 83 deportees from the U.S. were murdered upon their return to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. With the recent initiation of raids to increase deportations of young mothers and their children, the number of those killed after being deported likely will rise, and our moral standing most certainly will fall.