Bucking a Disturbing Trend, Governor Deval Patrick Calls for Compassion for Refugee Children

More toxic rhetoric targeting children of the border crisis amasses each day. Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert characterized the situation as an “invasion” and called for “ships of war” while Texas Governor Rick Perry pledged to deploy the National Guard.

What many politicians and protesters have lost sight of is the fact that that these so-called “illegal immigrants” are children—children fleeing violence. In some cases, U.S. foreign policy—in the form of the war on drugs and support for the coup in Honduras—helped to create the horrific conditions forcing these children to flee. In any case, the United States has a commitment to protect people fleeing persecution, torture, and trafficking.

Last Friday Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick provided a bright spot amid the vitriol, offering to house some of the children and families at two military facilities in his home state. According to Patrick, providing safe haven to refugees is an American ideal:

“We have rescued Irish children from famine, Russian and Ukrainian children from religious persecution, Cambodian children from genocide, Haitian children from earthquakes, Sudanese children from civil war, and New Orleans children from Hurricane Katrina,” Patrick said. “Once, in 1939, we turned our backs on Jewish children fleeing the Nazis, and it remains a blight on our national reputation. The point is that this good nation is great when we open our doors and our hearts to needy children, and diminished when we don’t.”

Instead of ensuring that these children are properly cared for, legislators in Washington have proposed a bill that will erode asylum protections, strip legal representation, and prolong detainment. The Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act of 2014 would, says Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer, “put children at risk of return to trafficking, death, and persecution in their home countries. It would turn away asylum seekers and leave others in immigration detention for months. This proposal is completely inconsistent with American ideals and would erode the United States’ legacy as a global leader in protecting refugees and victims of trafficking.”

The situation at the border is indeed a crisis, but it’s not an immigration crisis; it’s a humanitarian one. Human Rights First has proposed a comprehensive blueprint outlining the steps the United States government should take to address the increase in requests for protection at the border, including:

  • Properly resourcing the Asylum Office screening processes and the Immigration Courts to reduce backlogs and vulnerability to abuse;
  • Supporting efforts to expand nationwide use of cost-effective and humane alternatives to detention for border cases in place of immigration detention, for those who need additional supervision to support appearance;
  • Addressing misinformation of persons arriving at the border by supporting prompt access to legal information and counsel; and
  • Not weakening protection safeguards.

To start with, though, lawmakers should take a cue from Governor Patrick and extend an ounce of compassion to these children in need.


Published on July 25, 2014


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