Obama Should Announce Joint Protection Initiative in Meeting with Central American Presidents
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today urged the Obama Administration to announce a joint effort to address the underlying human rights abuses driving thousands of children and families to flee Central America when he meets with the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras tomorrow. The presidents should also work to disrupt the smuggling networks that are exploiting these vulnerable families, and announce an initiative to improve protection throughout the region.
“President Obama should exercise real leadership by working with his Central American counterparts to address the human rights challenges that are the root cause of displacement in the region,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer, who toured a new family detention facility in Artesia, New Mexico this week. “Because U.S. actions set an example for the rest of the world, President Obama should reaffirm the United States’ commitment to protecting those who flee persecution and violence, publicly stress the importance of fair asylum and trafficking protection procedures in the United States, and abandon rhetoric of deterrence.”
This regional protection initiative should include measures to improve asylum procedures in Mexico and other nearby states to conduct resettlement processing in other states in the region, and to create protection mechanisms for those facing imminent risks within their own countries – such as through expedited in-country protection processing and the use of emergency transit centers. The presidents should also work with civil society leaders and human rights defenders in their respective countries to reduce the violence.
Human Rights First advises that in-country processing should be timely, rather than take years, effective in granting resettlement to those qualified to receive it, include mechanisms for assuring the protection of individuals facing imminent risks of harm, employ best interests determinations with respect to children, and should not be used as a tool to limit or deny asylum to those who directly seek the protection of the United States.
The organization is also concerned that deportation of children without proper screening for protection claims could deliver them back to environments in which they are subject to persecution, trafficking, gang violence, and sexual abuse. The administration should also champion the use of alternatives to detention which have been proven effective in the United States, as well as more cost-effective and humane.
“Any and all regional cooperation mechanisms must include measures to protect those fleeing from violence and persecution,” said Acer. “The United States should ensure that its asylum process sets a positive example for the region and the rest of the world.”
For more information or to speak with Acer, contact Corinne Duffy at [email protected] or 202-370-3319. To view a transcript of a recent media briefing call on the crisis, which features former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Services under George W. Bush Jim Ziglar, see here.