If we want to follow international law, we are...
In the last month or so, I’ve been reading the stories about the 60,000 Child Refugees in America crossing the southwest border with about 60% of them requesting political asylum. I finally rolled up my sleeves and looked into this humanitarian crisis that has politicians and pundits confused about what is really going on.
These children are refugees of wars, gangs and violence in their own countries. To be specific, the countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, three of the most dangerous countries in this hemisphere (the Northern Triangle).
The United States is not the only country taking in these refugee children. Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, and Belize are doing so as well. The applications for amnesty has risen an alarming 760% between 2008 and 2013. Most of these children crossing the border do not qualify for “amnesty” under the DREAM Act which defers deportation for children brought to the United States previously by their parents or guardians illegally.
There have also been 45,000 adults crossing the border with roughly 70% applying for political asylum. These are just the folks who are claiming a fear of return who have been registered. We have no idea about how many people don’t get intercepted by border authorities. There is no way for us to track the number of individuals that are part of regular migration-enforcement activities. To be talking about a flow of over 100,000 people from three countries is quite alarming.
In terms of how they are getting here; so many of them are just invisible. Some people are being smuggled, some people are being trafficked, some people think that they are paying a smuggler just to end up being trafficked, some people come with other relatives. There are so many different stories.
As far as the White House is concerned, the amount of border control agents has been doubled and FEMA and other charities are helping house the children, some as young as two years old, at least until Immigration (ICE) can get a grasp on the influx of applications. The solution to these kids is not immigration reform, although that is needed desperately, it is unrelated. The root cause of the problem are the failed states of the three countries in question and therein may lie the solution . The United Nations, not the United States needs to get more involved. The US has done enough damage in Latin America
Back to the matter at hand. As if out of the blue, there were suddenly “60,000 children at the border with a projection of 30,000 more by the end of 2014.” Sure enough, I found that the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees surveyed 404 children from Mexico and Central America who arrived in the United States illegally, and asked a simple question: Why did you leave?
The study consisted of interviewing undocumented immigrant children across the U.S. immigration system for two hours each. They told stories of extreme violence, and fear of being caught up in gangs. Forty-eight percent of the children “shared experiences of how they had been personally affected by the augmented violence” at the hands of “organized armed criminal actors, including drug cartels and gangs, or by state actors.”
The report found “that no less than 58 percent of the 404 children interviewed were forcibly displaced” to a degree that warranted international protection, meaning that if the U.S. refused these children, it could be in breach of U.N. conventions. Out of the 404 children surveyed, only nine mentioned immigration issues.
According to the United Nations, a refugee is “A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it..”
Under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees: “No Contracting State shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social or political opinion”
In other words, it’s the duty of the United States to take these kids in. A refugee has a right to be protected against forcible return. Just like Syria’s neighbors took in their refugees and Iraq’s neighbors took in theirs. I know it isn’t what conservatives want to hear, but people seeking asylum from war and persecution is far more important than someone simply seeking a better life.
Republicans can try and turn this into an immigration issue if they want, but the fact is refugees are not the same as immigrants. Let’s hope the powers that be bear this in mind when tackling the issue.