Church World Service is strongly opposed to two pieces of legislation that the House of Representatives passed on August 1st. H.R. 5230 would deny children a meaningful opportunity to have their story heard or apply for asylum and would deport children to life-threatening situations. While it would provide some funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), H.R. 5230 would be insufficient to meet the needs of unaccompanied children, and would only replenish $47 million of the $94 million of refugee services funding that has already been reprogrammed.
“This shameful bill would eliminate provisions in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act specifically for children from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras – the very children who are fleeing devastating violence and in need of these protections,” said CWS President and CEO Rev. John L. McCullough. ” Deporting a child within a week’s time if they can’t clearly and immediately articulate the details of an asylum claim to an armed man in uniform ignores the trauma these children have gone through, and will result in children being returned to life-threatening situations.”
Leading up to the vote, more than 300 faith-based organizations, including CWS, and more than 4,000 people of faithurged Congress to uphold these anti-trafficking protections. The Senate failed to get the 60 votes needed to pass its billS. 2648, which would provide adequate funding to serve the children and fully replenish the $94 million of refugee social services funding that was recently reprogrammed to meet the needs of the increased numbers of unaccompanied children. The Senate bill is a “clean supplemental” – meaning it does not include negative policies. CWS urges both the House and Senate to enact legislation that will provide ORR the $1.83 billion requested in the Administration’s supplemental request, and to increase funding for immigration judges and legal assistance for children, without any negative rollbacks to protections for children.
The House also passed H.R. 5272 to prevent President Obama from expanding the deferred action program, which has allowed more than 500,000 undocumented young people to apply to travel and work legally. CWS supports the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and has been urging the Administration to expand this program for years. Especially as the House has failed to enact immigration reform, the Administration can and should expand deferred action to improve the lives of our undocumented community members.
CWS will continue to work with its member communions and refugee resettlement offices to advocate that Congress increase funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, so it can adequately serve both refugees and unaccompanied children. CWS will remain opposed to negative policy changes that place children at risk, and will continue to urge the Administration to expand deferred action for undocumented persons.