Washington, D.C.—Today, both the House and the Senate are expected to consider funding to address humanitarian needs at the border where tens of thousands of Central American children fleeing violence in their home communities have arrived in the past six months.
The House Republican bill deprives these children of the legal protections and due process guarantees that would determine if they qualify for protective status in the United States. It would rush to deport them back to terrifying situations that could threaten their lives and safety.
“Many of the children have fled the threat of gangs, organized crime, and abuse in their home communities,”said Geoff Thale, WOLA’s Director of Programs. “The House bill will rush to send them back to risk these dangers again.”
The House bill would provide $35 million to deploy National Guard troops to the border, sending combat-trained soldiers to enforce domestic law on U.S. soil. “Sending the National Guard is risky, costly, and unnecessary at this time,” said Adam Isacson, WOLA’s Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy. “Southern Texas isn’t a ‘battlefield.’ It’s the northern end of a humanitarian crisis that originates in Central America’s violence-torn communities. It needs judges and emergency workers, not guns and camouflage uniforms.”
Senate legislation that addresses this issue, on the other hand, maintains the protections that allow these children a fair hearing to determine whether it is safe for them to be returned. It also provides funding to improve protective services for the children who are returned to their countries to help reintegrate them safely. Finally, it takes important strides to begin addressing the root causes of the community-level violence and insecurity that are driving many of these children to leave in the first place. It supports community-based violence prevention programs, improvements in police structures and services, job creation initiatives, and efforts to dismantle criminal gangs. It also invests in civil society organizations that can hold public institutions accountable for results and strengthen effective law enforcement, good governance and the justice sector.
“These children will have little choice but to leave unless we begin to work on the ground in the communities to address the root causes of gang violence, abuse, and police corruption,”said Adriana Beltrán, WOLA’s Senior Associate on Citizen Security. “There are proven strategies to address this kind of violence, but we must make the commitment at the community level.”