United States to Increase Admission of Central American Refugees

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today praised Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement that the United States will accept more refugees in an effort to admit an increasing number of Central Americans fleeing violence and persecution. Secretary Kerry did not state how many additional refugees would be admitted.

“We welcome today’s move to begin refugee processing in the region and to expand the number of Central American refugees resettled,” said Human Rights First’s Sharon Kelly McBride. “This is in line with the United States’ long history of protecting the persecuted and, frankly, a long-overdue development in addressing a refugee displacement situation as dire as what we’ve seen in Central America.”

While today’s announcements are positive, Human Rights First cautions that much of the United States’ approach to this crisis has so far been inconsistent with U.S. refugee protection commitments. The administration’s response in many cases has been to jail women and children seeking refuge, prevent them from accessing adequate legal counsel and, now, to target them for deportation raids. Instead, the administration should assist them in finding lawyers who ultimately encourage people to appear for their hearings and comply with decisions.

Human Rights First notes that any regional resettlement initiative, such as the one proposed today, must move ahead in a timely manner and help significant numbers of people in order to be viewed credibly by refugees in the region. The resettlement initiative should also not be used to preclude individuals from Central America from seeking asylum in the United States. The Obama Administration had previously announced an increase in the overall refugee ceiling for refugees from all countries from 70,000 to 85,000 for fiscal year 2016, which would include resettlement of at least 10,000 Syrian refugees.

“The United States has a long way to go if it is to reclaim its position as global leader in refugee protection,” said McBride. “We look forward to working with the administration to ensure that this program is implemented in a way that bolsters this leadership.”

Press

Published on January 13, 2016

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