Washington, D.C.—On July 29, at a hearing of the Congressional Progressive Caucus that featured testimony from unaccompanied minors from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, WOLA’s Senior Associate for Citizen Security, Adriana Beltrán, discussed the humanitarian situation at the border, emphasizing the need to take into account the magnitude of community-level violence these children left behind and will face again, if they are sent back without addressing these dangers.
“Congress should not leave town without addressing the immediate need to ensure that children at the border are treated humanely, and their cases are evaluated individually,” said Beltrán. “Children should not be deported back to situations that threaten their lives.”
Since October 1, 2013, approximately 60,000 unaccompanied minors have arrived at the southern border and turned themselves in to U.S. border patrol seeking protection. Sending in the National Guard or attempting to seal the border will not solve the problem, as these children are not trying to avoid detection. Efforts to dramatically speed-up deportations or repeal current legal protections could send children back to face gangs, extortion, and abuse.
“Unless the factors that originally drove these children to flee are countered—including the corruption of local law enforcement—it is likely that many children will return to the United States rather than stay to become victims of the spiral of violence in their communities,” Beltrán said.
Beltrán, who coordinated a major research collaboration on citizen security between WOLA and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), offered recommendations to deal with the humanitarian crisis including: programs in Central America to receive, protect, and reintegrate returning migrants; investment in community-based violence prevention initiatives that have been proven to reduce gang violence; and reforms that will build accountable and professional police, prosecutors, and courts in the region.
Click here to read the full testimony.
Click here to watch a video of the testimony.