President Obama, Stop the immigration raids and protect vulnerable families
From across Michigan today, 40 labor, faith, civil rights and community groups called on President Obama to end a new round of raids targeting Central American families seeking who have fled their home countries as refugees.
“These families are coming from countries with some of the highest per capita murder rates in the Western Hemisphere,” said Michigan State University professor, Ruben Martinez. “The United States should be working to protect these families instead of returning them to the dangers they will surely face.”
The group includes the state’s largest labor unions, more than a dozen faith leaders, as well as representatives of the Latino, Asian American, and Arab-American communities.
Please see the full statement and signers below:
To: Honorable President Barack Obama
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson
Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Sara Saldana
We are extremely concerned with the Administration’s announcement that DHS will pursue home raids that specifically target immigrant and refugee families from Central America.
Home raids are a deeply traumatizing and brutal experience for immigrant communities. We believed that the Obama Administration had progressed toward a more nuanced and humane understanding of immigration enforcement, particularly as it relates to families and children. However, this program is a step backwards toward the dark days of the Bush Administration’s discredited policies.
Many of these families will be sent to some of the most violent areas on the planet– nations on the brink of civil war with drug gangs. El Salvador has the highest murder rate in the world, 22 times higher than the US. It just unseated Honduras for this dubious distinction (15 times higher than the US), with Guatemala (7 times higher) not far behind. El Salvador has the highest rate of gender-based violence in the world. The United Nations documents that children fleeing these countries are regularly subjected to gang violence and sexual assault.
Moreover, the US bears great responsibility for the instability in Central America. Years of US intervention have consistently undermined democratic governments in this area. Insatiable demand for narcotics by US consumers has financed the development of the drug gangs that perpetrate much of the violence. Additionally, many of the high-powered firearms used by these gangs are trafficked from the US due to lax American gun laws.
Furthermore, border security is at its highest in decades with more Border Patrol agents stationed than at any time in history, while the number of people crossing the border is at its lowest number in decades. Secretary Johnson himself noted, “With the exception of one year, (FY 2015) was the lowest number of apprehensions on our southern border since 1972”
Now is not the time to cave in to the politics of fear.
We are refusing to protect blameless families from violence and instability that the US government has done much to create.
President Obama should immediately stop deporting families fleeing violence in Central America and uphold longstanding refugee protections by taking the following actions:
- Protect people who qualify for DACA and DAPA from deportations.
- Expand Temporary Protected Status to individuals in the U.S. from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras more than justify a current TPS designation.
- Expand the CAM program.
On December 1, 2014, the U.S. State Department announced the official launch of an in-country refugee processing program for some children in certain Central American countries known as the Central American Minor Program or “CAM”. The program allows parents with lawful presence in the United States to apply for their children living in El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras to come to the United States as refugees through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. Children who do not meet the definition of a refugee, but are still at risk of harm, may be eligible on a case-by-case basis to travel to the United States safely and legally as humanitarian parolees. We believe the CAM program is too limited in scope to meet current needs. At this time, the CAM program is available only to children determined to be in danger of persecution who have parents with lawful presence in the United States. This limited scope restricts protection to a very small segment of the children who desperately need it. We urge President Obama to expand eligibility for the CAM program to include vulnerable populations such as at-risk children and families without family members with lawful presence in the United States.
- Improve safety mechanisms for children and families applying for the CAM Program.
Many children face danger when applying for the CAM program in their home country. We urge President Obama to put in place safety mechanisms to ensure child applicants and their families are safe while their cases make their way through the in-country application process, including providing transportation and safe shelter to applicants who live outside capital cities where processing takes place.
- Improve CAM application processing time.
Currently, applicants must wait for several months to complete the CAM process. Processing times must be improved and an expedited processing system should be developed for high-risk cases.
- Engage community-based organizations on the CAM program.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement lacks the necessary funding and resources to process CAM applications. We urge President Obama to direct his administration to partner with experienced, community-based organizations with deep roots and knowledge of the target community on the application process.
- We urge the U.S. government, in consultation with Central American partners, to develop a comprehensive regional humanitarian response plan.
The U.S. government should work with Central American governments to address the root causes of the violence in Central America as well as strengthen the regional protection system so that children and migrants have better access to asylum, humanitarian visas and anti-trafficking systems across the region.
- Ensure due process protections are in place in accordance with traditional values of American justice.
Individuals in adversarial proceedings should have an attorney. Expedited hearings for unaccompanied children and mothers with children, so-called “rocket dockets”, do not allow enough time to find an attorney or prepare their case. Every individual, including unaccompanied minors, should have legal representation in immigration proceedings – if necessary, at government expense.
- All individuals should receive appropriate screening for humanitarian relief by trained, experienced personnel.
There are widespread reports of inadequate screening for asylum and other humanitarian relief by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. We urge President Obama to increase training and accountability mechanisms to ensure those seeking refuge receive adequate protections as required by international and domestic law.
- Appoint child advocates for vulnerable children.
Federal law permits the appointment of child advocates for child trafficking victims and other vulnerable unaccompanied children. Their role is to advocate for the best interests, safety and well being of a child. Child advocates are particularly necessary for infants and toddlers who are too young to seek the advice of an attorney, or for other children who may lack capacity to make informed decisions about their cases.
Cindy Estrada, Vice President, United Auto Workers International
Marge Faville Robinson, Service Employees International Union, Michigan State Council
Bishop Donald Kriess, Southeast Michigan Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
Bishop Craig Satterlee, Northwest Michigan Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
Bishop Wendell Gibbs, Episcopal Diocese of Michigan
State Representative Stephanie Chang
Arturo Reyes, UAW 1-D CAP Council
AJ Freer, UAW Local 600, Dearborn
Rev. Fred Thelen, Cristo Rey Catholic Church, Lansing
Rev. Paul Perez, Office of Mission and Social Justice, Detroit Annual Conference, United Methodist Church
Rev. Mollie Clements, United Methodist Church, Kalamazoo
Rev. Matthew Bode, Spirit of Hope Lutheran Church, Detroit
Rev. Guilford Flatt, Bethel Luterhan Church, St. Clair Shores
Rev. John Negele, Christ Lutheran Church, Waterford
Rev. Scott Sessler, Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Livonia
Rev. Sara Freudenberg, Trinity Lutheran Church, Ann Arbor
Rev. Alan Casillas, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Imlay City
Rev. Claudine Olivia, 1st Unitarian Universalist Church of Flint
Rev. Campbell Lovett, Michigan Conference, United Church of Christ
Sister Karen Donahue, Sisters of Mercy
Sister Sarah Nash, Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters, Monroe
Professor James Perkinson, Ecumenical Theological Seminary, Detroit
Joshua Dunn, Voces of Battle Creek
Professor Ruben Martinez, MI ALMA
Liz Balck, Justice for Our Neighbors, Grand Rapids
Ayesha Ghazi, Asian American Citizens for Justice
Margaret Harner, Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrants Rights
Anita Peek, Rosa Parks Institute
Commissioner Sonya Hernandez, Michigan Hispanic & Latino Commission
Susan Reed, Michigan Immigrants Rights Center
Katherine White, Immigration Connection, City Life Church
Theresa Tran, APIA – Vote
Sylvia Orduno, Michigan Welfare Rights
Garret Garcia, Michigan Dreamers
Lidia Reyes Flores, Latino Family Services, Detroit
Reem Subei, American Arab Anti Discrimination Committee
Ryan Bates, Michigan United
Gloria Rivera, Great Lakes Bioneers
Emily Diaz Torres, Michigan Immigrant Service Center
Peri Stone-Palquist, Student Advocacy Center, Ann Arbor
Nadia Tonova, National Network for Arab American Communities
John Philo, Sugar Law Center, Detroit