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Senate GOP Panel Votes to Hurt Kids Fleeing Central American Violence, Spanish-Language Media Reports

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Yesterday, in the U.S. Senate, a subcommittee led by Alabama Senator Richard Shelby voted to block the Obama Administration’s request to ensure that children fleeing violence in Central America have access to legal representation when they receive their day in immigration court.  While subcommittee votes don’t usually generate a lot of news, the development was so mean-spirited that it was picked up by the Associated Press and covered extensively in Spanish-language media.

As the Associated Press writes,

“A GOP-controlled Senate panel on Wednesday blocked President Barack Obama’s request for $50 million to pay for legal help for unaccompanied immigrant children coming to the United States after fleeing violence in Central America…

…The flow of children fleeing gangs and other dangers in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and finding their way to the U.S. is down significantly from last year, when an influx created a humanitarian crisis, in states along the U.S.-Mexico border. Significant backlogs remain.

Without lawyers, children are much more likely to be sent back to their home countries. Under federal law, immigrant children have two options to seek legal status, including requesting asylum for fear of returning home to face gang violence.

Without legal help, the maze of documentation and legal requirements is far more difficult for a child to maneuver.”

Below is a sample of the coverage yesterday’s Senate vote received in Spanish language media:

“It is difficult to believe that the children will face prosecution and the bureaucracy without legal counsel.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Is the GOP really bent on denying basic legal assistance to of the young children fleeing violence in Central America? Doing so would continue to subject unaccompanied minors, who are facing life and death decisions, to appear in front of a judge and a government prosecutor without legal assistance.  Cutting such funds may seem like a no-brainer in conservative circles, but it’s a very big deal in the Spanish language media.  For a party facing serious brand damage with Latinos and immigrants in America, it’s not only morally bankrupt, it’s politically stupid.”