Washington, D.C. – While Church World Service President and CEO, the Rev. John L. McCullough, praised the announcement that the administration will increase refugee processing in Central America, he emphasized that this should in no way be seen as a tradeoff for increased raids, deportation, detention and border militarization. Reports have shown children and families are fleeing drastic increases in violence, conscription into gangs, trafficking, abuse by smugglers and sexual assault in Central America and require protection both through the U.S. refugee resettlement program and as they present themselves to border officials at the U.S. southern border to seek asylum.
“Finally, the administration is recognizing that this is a humanitarian crisis and that many of the families, children and individuals fleeing Central America are refugees who qualify for international protection and resettlement,” said McCullough. “This is a welcome announcement, and the CWS network looks forward to working with the administration to see that these refugees receive welcome and an opportunity to rebuild their lives in the United States. However, our optimism about this announcement does not change our strong condemnation for the recent raids that have targeted Central American asylum seekers and spread fear in immigrant communities. While refugee processing will certainly provide protection for many vulnerable people, it must be accompanied with a new direction in how we implement immigration policies and how we treat asylum seekers that does not include rounding people up, detaining and deporting them.”
Contrary to political rhetoric, individuals seeking asylum are not illegally entering the United States. Under both international and U.S. law, they have the right to seek protection from persecution and violence without fear of being returned to their country of origin. By assisting Mexico in militarizing its southern border, the U.S. is turning children back over to the very people who are seeking to traffic and exploit them. In addition to expanding refugee processing in Central America, CWS urges the U.S. government to increase the capacity building of well-trained and accountable asylum and child protection systems in Central America and Mexico, and to support programs that help children gain job and skills training. The current humanitarian crisis will only be solved when violence is reduced and children can find security in their home countries, far preferable and more effective than walls that keep children and families in need out and betray our values as a nation.
“Church World Service remains committed to working with congregations and faith communities around the country to provide refuge and safety for those targeted by our nation’s outdated immigration system, including by offering protection and sanctuary to those fearing deportation,” McCullough continued. “As people of faith and a nation of immigrants, we are called to welcome the most vulnerable among us, not return them to danger. We call on the Obama administration to immediately end these raids, and we remain committed to working with the administration and Congress to implement systems of protection and to reform our immigration policies to keep families and communities together.”