Church World Service urges all Members of Congress to reject proposals that would undo President Obama’s recent actions on immigration or narrow the protections available for children and adults seeking safety in this country. Recently proposed legislation, including certain amendments to the DHS Appropriations bill and H.R. 191 sponsored by Representative Aderholt (R-AL-4), would be harmful to immigrants already living in the United States, as well as to those seeking protection from harm — including the most vulnerable among us: children. These proposals would take us significant steps backwards as a country, rather than fixing our broken immigration system.
The President’s actions on immigration will likely offer millions of our undocumented community members the opportunity to remain with their families and legally work in the United States without the constant fear of deportation. Recent legislation would not only undo the now well established Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the newly announced Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, but would also reinstate the failed Secure Communities (SCOM) program that has reduced community safety by breaking down trust between the public and law enforcement. The executive actions creating DACA and DAPA and replacing SCOM are temporary and are not a substitute for a pathway to permanent status or citizenship, but they are welcome progress toward policies that promote family unity and allowing our valued community members to live and work in this country legally. Rather than opposing and trying to reverse this progress, we encourage all Members of Congress to support the President’s actions and it’s smooth implementation and to take steps towards fixing our broken immigration system in a way that is humane and just.
CWS also strongly condemns sections of H.R. 191 and similar legislation that would reverse life-saving anti-trafficking protections and summarily return unaccompanied children to dangerous situations. Any legislation that would roll back protections provided for in the bipartisan Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA)1 ignores the trauma that these children, especially girls, have endured, including gang conscription and sexual violence. Congress unanimously agreed that these protections are important, and that is not less true now simply because more children are in need of them. Expediting deportations for unaccompanied children and denying them an opportunity to have their stories heard and be screened for trafficking and protection concerns, places children in harm’s way, at-risk of smuggling, gang violence, trafficking and domestic abuse. H.R. 191 would also reduce access to parts of our immigration system that have protected vulnerable individuals for decades, including asylum, parole, and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The United States must remain steadfast in our moral, international and domestic legal obligations to safeguard against refoulement, the unsafe return of migrants to dangerous situations where they are at risk of exploitation or persecution2,3. In addition, CWS urges Members of Congress to support the Administration’s efforts to protect unaccompanied children, including through the in-country processing program for children and their parents who may qualify for refugee status or parole. Rather than H.R. 191, which would eliminate the option for children in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to seek parole through in-country processing, we urge Congress to affirm protections in the TVPRA and elsewhere, and to support the safety of children and all individuals fleeing persecution.
At a moment in history when humanitarian concerns around the world are increasing, now is not the time for the U.S. Congress to narrow the protections that exist for those in grave need of refuge. CWS urges Members of Congress to oppose any piece of legislation that weakens our asylum system or narrows the criteria for whom necessary protections can be granted. We stand with our immigrant brothers and sisters: young people and families whose lives will be changed by DACA and DAPA, children seeking protection from gang violence in the Northern Triangle, and all individuals fleeing persecution who see the United States as a beacon of hope, safety and freedom. We urge congress to stand with us and with them.
1 U.S. Code Title 22: Foreign Relations and Intercourse, Chapter 78: Trafficking Victims Protection.
2United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.
3United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Note on Non-Refoulement, 23 August 1977.