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Refugees Don’t Belong in Prison

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Pending Release of Wildin Acosta a Relief, But Administration’s Approach to Central American Refugees Must Change

Wildin Acosta’s pending release from detention, and subsequent reunion with his family, while his asylum case is pending has been a cause for celebration across the state. Wildin is the third of six youth from Central America to be released in the past months as the result of arduous work by community members who stood up to the Obama Administration’s callous and shameful treatment of refugees.

Wildin’s release is a victory for leaders fighting to protect Central American refugees not only from the danger they fled in their home countries, but also from the Obama Administration. The Administration has further traumatized these young people by ripping them away from their families and throwing them in a jail cell, and even in some cases solitary confinement.

While this is a win, Wildin is still at risk of deportation, and much work remains to be done to reform the Administration’s approach to the Central American refugee crisis. Below are four core elements of a smart and humanitarian approach to addressing this crisis:

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.

“The Obama Administration must stop this horrendous and immoral practice of detaining and deporting refugees and implement new policies that address the crisis instead of exacerbating it,” said Tim Eakins, Director of North Carolina’s Voice. “As Nicholas Kristof noted in his recent articles on the subject, the current approach to the Central American refugee crisis is a ‘death sentence’ for these young people and must stop immediately.”