Rev. Miguel Rivera
February 04, 2015
Comprehensive Immigration Reform is Dead!
Over forty congressional districts are extremely conservative, where numbers of minorities votes are almost irrelevant to a local elections cycle and either a Democrat or Republican representing such constituencies, WILL NOT VOTE FOR COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM.
This is the sad dilemma the Nation is facing, while thousands of undocumented immigrants are in a state of "legal limbo", basically waiting for deportation.
Local Municipalities where huge numbers of Latinos are a strong working force to deal with, are avoiding legal expenses while not going forward with anti-immigration ordinances, while extending identification samples to those who are willing to take the risk of stepping out of the shadows and registering themselves. We Pray this will not backfire later against them.
Legislative talks about legislation which will void those to become citizens is not even at the table.
Republican controlled Members of Congress are either suing President Obama for what they understand was an illegal executive order to extend DACA or hindering further the public opinion, with an anti immigrant rhetoric, accusing "illegals spreading diseases and taking over american jobs".
The "Moral" fundamentals of such dilemma are less important every day, due to a non latino church, that lost its moral standing among conservatives constituencies, after years of silence on such issue or offering a "lite prayer calling to action", without any relevance among those representing such conservative anti-immigrant elected politicians.
While the economy is getting stronger and unemployment lower, there is still a "wrong sense direction" among those members of Congress (Republican or Democrats alike) that still don't trust the benefits of expanding the workforce, which in return will represent millions of dollars payments for Social Security Tax and consumerism that empowers local economies.
To make matters worst, latino voters are perceived as a one sided political spectrum, taken for granted after elections are over, and weakening all possibilities of becoming a political "bargaining chip at the table". Immigration reform is been perceived today more like a "political hand out" than a true empowerment of a strong future voting force that will enhance the economy and political participation, an asset for our country.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform has been a good source of revenue for some "so called immigration advocacy organizations" during all these years, while stopping themselves at the edge of becoming "defiant upon their political interests". This has developed into a powerful industry, that only perpetuates their media presence and lack of commitment status".
Only those who have seen our churches suffered because of losing good and honest Latino families due to deportation and spouses or children separated from their love ones, truly understand the profound seriousness of such "legislative funeral services, organized and attended by those who only cry tears of political opportunism".
Rev. Miguel Rivera
CONLAMIC Chairman, Board of Directors
For Immediate Attention
Contact: Rev. Miguel Rivera
Jan 23, 2015
Evangelical Latino National Leaders will meet at the White House to support President Obama Executive Immigration Order
WASHINGTON, DC - Leaders from the National Coalition Of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) will meet on Thursday at 11:00am at the White House, in support of Presidente Barack Obama executive order on behalf of over 5 million undocumented immigrants.
CONLAMIC Evangelical Latino Bishops and Pastors, will bring a Resolution voted by the Board of Directors, urging President Obama to veto all legislation that could hinder such a historical presidential action.
Texas, Florida, New York, Rhode Island, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, California, New Jersey, Arizona, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware evangelical pastor's associations leadership affiliated with CONLAMIC will convene to address matters pertaining to a Republican controlled Congress, against such executive order.
"We are displaying a full support of President Obama's Executive Order, on behalf of hundreds of members of our local congregations, who are undocumented immigrants and entire families that will benefit because of such bold action", says the Reverend Miguel Rivera, CONLAMIC Chairman.
CONLAMIC in the past spearheaded federal lawsuits against anti-immigrant laws in Oklahoma. Virginia, Arizona and New Jersey to stop arrests and massive deportations that promoted broken families and polarize the nation on such a controversial issue.
Since 2001, the most prominent Latino evangelical advocacy clergy organization has promoted comprehensive immigration reform which has stalled in Congress since 2007.
"Members of Congress need to understand that avoiding such a moral and human rights issue, is not acceptable.
Continuance of "political opportunism" by those who benefit politically by creating animosity upon our communities, with anti immigration messages and creating an environment of hate against undocumented immigrants is not what America is all about.
We commend President Obama for his leadership and it's time for Republicans in Congress to come up with basic and fair alternatives with legislation that will provide a legal status to those who can demonstrate that are willing to go back of the line and amend their legal status.
We also support additional Border Security and a revised version of employment verification program that will deter businesses to hire a not authorized labor force. But fin order to accomplish this, comprehensive immigration reform needs to get resolved, concluded Reverend Rivera.
For Immediate Attention
Contact: Rev. Miguel Rivera
November 19, 2014
CONLAMIC Evangelical Latino Leaders Respond to President Obama Executive Action
CONLAMIC Evangelical Latino Leaders Respond to President Obama Executive Action.
WASHINGTON, DC - The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders CONLAMIC applauds President Barack Obama Presidential Executive Action, that will temporarily allow a limited number of undocumented immigrants to step out of the shadows and start a legal process that will allow their families to continue united, work permits and avoid deportation.
"At this time, we are somewhat pleased with President Obama's decision, but worried about the implementation of this new approach and the need for additional resources to comply", says the Reverend Miguel Rivera, CONLAMIC Chairman of the Board of Directors.
National Evangelical Latino Pastors advocated for a comprehensive immigration reform since 2001 with the understanding that a bipartisan solution is the only prudent solution to this sensitive and controversial issue.
"Republicans in the Senate and House of Representatives are now urged and mandate to move forward with legislation that should guarantee the American people the security of our borders and provide a legal path for those undocumented immigrants that desire to be straight with the law, to achieve resident status and citizenship.
The Christian Evangelical Church, understands that this is the right and moral thing to do. A continuance to avoid a comprehensive solution to this matter, furthers polarize the American people and encourages political opportunism that do not serves well our Nation", continues saying the Reverend Rivera.
CONLAMIC Pastors around the Country will provide leadership to help those who qualify under President Obama's directives to come forward and take advantage of this action.
"We also call the Republican and Democrats leadership in Congress to engage in a more productive and amicable legislative debate that will end up with an efficient immigration system that reflects the principles where this Nation was established", concludes Reverend Rivera.
Press Release - thedailybeast.com
By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
July 21, 2014
Obama and Latinos Are at the Breaking Point
Photo: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters
The deportations have been bad enough, but Obama’s inaction on the border crisis might be the straw that breaks the donkey’s back.
For Latino Democrats, especially Mexican-Americans, supporting President Obama’s reelection in 2012 was about voting for the lesser of two evils. Now, given the Obama administration’s callous treatment of thousands of unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America and its plans to send the kids back into harm’s way forthwith without the encumbrance of due process, never mind “lesser.” We’re left only with “evil.”
Latino Democrats have been biting their tongues over how Obama has racked up 2 million deportations—mostly of Latinos—in five and a half years. But given how much Latinos worship the institution of the family and how they fawn over children, the border kids could just be the straw that breaks the donkey’s back.
The only question is: “What are Latino Democrats going to do about it?” Answering it requires confronting what we already know—that most of our elected officials, of all colors and backgrounds, are in it for themselves and don’t represent their constituents. It also brings us to the sensitive subject of how U.S.-born Latinos often don’t care what happens to Latino immigrants or refugees, especially if they show up at the back door without permission.
A few days ago, at the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza in Los Angeles, Janet Murguia, the organization’s president and CEO, noted that July 18-20 had been designated Interfaith Weekend of Compassion and Prayer for Unaccompanied Migrant Children.
That’s a nice thought, but as is usually the case with thorny subjects that might get her organization crossways with liberal foundations and Democratic donors that keep it afloat, Murguia doesn’t get it. If there is one thing that the recent border crisis has taught the nation’s 52 million Latinos, it’s this: What we really need to pray for is better leaders.
“Better” means more courageous and more independent, less partisan and less motivated by self-interest. “Better” means being as willing to criticize the Democrats who fail our community with as much gusto as we do those Republicans who antagonize it.
We could start with groups like the NCLR, whose leaders are more worried about where the next corporate sponsorship is coming from than with going to bat for the most vulnerable elements of the Latino community—immigrants, and, given what’s happening right now on our southern border, refugees.
From there, we could head to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus—27 Democratic members of Congress who can trace their ancestry to Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. Between them, they haven’t had an original thought or proposed much meaningful legislation. Most of them are only there for one reason—to get reelected. This means not offering provocative remarks on a combustible topic like immigration, which is sure to make them enemies. When members of the Hispanic Caucus talk about immigration, it is usually in generalities.
That reminds me. By now, Henry Cuellar must be one confused congressman. The Texas Democrat, who represents a border region, recently told Politico that he and President Obama are “on the same line” regarding what to do with 57,000 Central American youths who streamed across the U.S.-Mexico border since October 2013.
And yet, during a recent two-hour meeting between Obama and the 27 Democratic members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, including Cuellar, Obama appeared to give Cuellar the cold shoulder.
In politics, appearances are often deceiving. A better assessment of what happened at that meeting is that, as busy as Obama and the lawmakers are these days, both sides found time to play charades.
No, that’s not right. What I mean is that both sides found time to put on a charade. Let me explain.
The line for public consumption—which was gobbled up by Eastern media whose understanding of immigration, the border, and Hispanics in the United States is a taco short of a combination plate—is that Obama had a swell meeting with all the members of the Hispanic Caucus except for one. Cuellar reportedly got a frosty reception from the Commander-in-Chief because both Obama and the CHC are against a bill that Cuellar is cosponsoring with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) that would rewrite current law so that unaccompanied minors from Central America could be deported more quickly.
“There was a pledge by the president to continue to work with the CHC to try to do what is right by our communities in a way that stays within the laws of this country,” CHC Vice Chair Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) told Politico.
In other words, the Hispanic Caucus emerged from the meeting empty-handed. No worries. As Democrats, they’ve shown previously that they don’t require much to fall back in line.
Under the Cornyn-Cuellar bill, unaccompanied minors—regardless of what country they come from—would have an immigration court hearing within seven days of being processed by Health and Human Services. Then, an immigration judge would have to rule within three more days on whether the child could stay or had to be deported.
But in truth, the President and the Hispanic Caucus are supposedly against the Cornyn-Cuellar bill. You see, if the language of the bill sounds familiar, it’s because the power to do speedy removals is exactly what the White House has been asking for since the border crisis came to light several weeks ago. An article in USA TODAY on July 2 bore the headline: “Obama Seeks Change to Law that Protects Immigrant Kids.” The article went on to explain that Obama was seeking changes essentially just like Cornyn-Cuellar.
So, in other words, whatever theatrical performance Obama put on for the benefit of the other Democrats in the CHC, Cuellar is doing the president’s bidding. They want the same thing—the border kids on the next plane. For the mega-ambitious Cuellar, it’s about shoring up his support among conservatives in Texas so he can lay the groundwork a future run at governor or U.S. Senate. For Obama, who doesn’t have to worry about going before voters again, it’s about protecting Democrats in Congress by getting the border kids story off the front page and off the airwaves well in advance of Nov. 4. The only friction between the two was tied to the fact that a couple of weeks earlier, Cuellar had criticized Obama for not visiting the border.
Of course, some of the Democrats whom Obama seeks to protect on Election Day are members of the Hispanic Caucus. So in the end, even though it will put them further out-of-step with those Latino constituents who think that due process should be preserved and that the border kids should not be given the bum’s rush, we can expect all those Democratic lawmakers to fall quietly in line behind Obama, and, consequently, behind the Cornyn-Cuellar bill.
Just one big happy familia.
Short URL: http://thebea.st/1kKmHk2
Press Release - politico.com
By Seung Min Kim
July 15, 2014
Border crisis scrambles the politics of immigration
Dems such as Rep. Luis Gutiérrez worry a crackdown could sacrifice due process for the children. | AP Photo
Immigration is at the top of the congressional agenda this summer — just not in a way anyone expected.
The immigration reform debate was expected to shift from Capitol Hill to the White House in June when President Barack Obama all but abandoned hope for pushing an overhaul bill through Congress this year, saying he would use his executive authority to take action.
But the immigration issue isn’t fading away so easily in Congress.
The deepening humanitarian crisis at the southern border is forcing lawmakers to weigh a response to the thousands of unaccompanied children flooding into Texas. The contours of the debate are different — instead of haggling over a pathway to citizenship, lawmakers are considering Obama’s request to direct nearly $4 billion to the border — but the overall issue remains the fallout from the troubled state of U.S. immigration laws.
The sudden shift is creating some unusual alliances. Republicans insist that if Obama wants billions in emergency funding, he must first agree to legal changes that would accelerate the pace of deportations for unaccompanied minors. The White House has expressed openness to a tougher approach along those lines, frustrating Democrats who were aligned with the administration on the reform effort but now worry a crackdown could sacrifice due process for the children.
“It just seems to me that we spent the last year and a half sitting down with Republicans and saying, ‘let’s change the law’ and they said, ‘it’s too hard, it’s too divisive,’” Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said. “But when it comes to the taking away of acquired rights under the law that immigrant children have, we have time for that kind of legislation.”
Immigrant advocates have never been afraid to pressure Democrats nor Obama on more liberal immigration policies, but the recent crisis has left them infuriated about the likely scope of the response from Washington — particularly after the collapse of immigration reform over the past year.
“Congress has not been able to act on immigration reform, and the only bill that [could pass on the border crisis] deports children back to violence more quickly,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “That should be unacceptable to the American public.”
A group of seven House Republicans tasked by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to craft a solution to the border crisis will present an update Tuesday at a weekly House GOP Conference meeting, though the lawmakers aren’t yet prepared to give concrete policy recommendations, GOP aides said.
But any response from House Republicans is sure to include changes to a 2008 anti-trafficking law meant to provide additional legal protections for unaccompanied migrant children from countries other than Mexico or Canada. The law was written at a time when such minors were coming in far fewer numbers, and it has led to the unintended consequence of children from Central America being allowed to stay in the United States as they wait, sometimes for years, for a hearing in immigration court — a severely backlogged system.
Also on the menu of recommendations being considered by House Republicans is a border-security measure written by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) that would require the Department of Homeland Security to write a plan to ensure that at least 90 percent of people making illegal border crossings along the southwestern border are apprehended within five years.
Another option popular among House Republicans and endorsed by Boehner is sending additional National Guard troops to the southern border to relieve Border Patrol agents, who have been overwhelmed with the influx of unaccompanied children, concentrated in the Rio Grande Valley.
More than 57,500 unaccompanied children had been apprehended at the southern border between Oct. 1, 2013, and June 30, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. More than three-quarters of those children hail from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
On Monday, two Texas lawmakers detailed legislation they will introduce this week that will treat unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America the same as minors from Mexico — in effect speeding up how quickly these children can be deported back home.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), calls on unaccompanied children who may be eligible to make a legal claim to stay in the United States — for example, asylum — to make that case in immigration court within seven days after being screened by Department of Health and Human Services officials, according to a summary provided Monday by Cornyn’s office.
If a judge decides that a child’s claim is legal — a determination that must be made within 72 hours — the child will be allowed to stay in the United States with a sponsor while the case winds its way through the courts. Otherwise, the children will be returned home.
“The problem with the 2008 law, I think everybody had good intentions to deal with victims of human trafficking, but didn’t really understand how the cartels would be shrewd enough to figure out what the gap or the loophole was in this law and figure out how to build this in their business model,” Cornyn told reporters on Monday.
But immigration advocates have drawn the line at measures treating children from Central America like minors from Mexico, who are questioned by Border Patrol agents with the discretion to turn back children without giving them their day in court if they think the minors don’t have a legal case to stay here.
“The whole treating the Central American kids like the Mexican kids is a nonstarter,” said Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “God bless the Border Patrol, but they’re not really trained in these types of life-and-death decisions.”
Short URL: http://politi.co/1siKOhg
COMUNICADO DE PRENSA
Para Atención Inmediata
Contacto: Rev. Miguel Rivera
Julio 14, 2014
CONLAMIC pide justicia para madres y chicos inmigrantes en la frontera
La Coalición Nacional Latina de Ministros y Líderes Cristianos (CONLAMIC) ha redactado una carta para el Procurador General de Justicia Eric Holder y copia a la Casa Blanca, exigiendo "se cumplas las disposiciones de ley federal a favor de todo inmigrante menor de edad, que solicita protección en la frontera, inmigrando desde Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador” específicamente.
En una resolución aprobada por la Junta de Directores, se repudia la intención de aquellos legisladores que pretenden abrogar el Acta de Refugio Para Menores Inmigrantes, firmada por el Presidente George W. Bush en el 2008.
La resolución además exige que se activen los recursos necesarios para lograr un esfuerzo conjunto entre los países de Centro America, Mexico y Estados Unidos para detener el trafico humano y poner fin a la gestión de crimen organizado que promueve y lucra los carteles y politicos corruptos con dicha industria ilegal.
"Los miles de refugiados inmigrantes que han llegado a la frontera, son el resultado de ignorar la creciente criminalidad y abusos de derechos civiles que permea en estos países. Deportar sería condenar a muerte a miles que vienen escapando de amenazas contra sus vidas contrario a la política exterior de esta Nación".
CONLAMIC aboga a favor del pedido del Presidente Barack Obama de incrementar fondos federales para contratar mas Jueces de Inmigración y agilizar el proceso administrativo legal que permitiría a miles de estos refugiados, reunirse con sus familiares en Estados Unidos y lograr asilo por razón de derechos humanos.
"Cientos de estos inmigrantes son ademas Ciudadanos Americanos nacidos en territorio continental quienes fueron obligados a exilarse junto a sus padres deportados previamente.
Estos tienen derecho al recurso legal de lograr una familia que avale su patria potestad y permita el derecho constitucional de todo ciudadano a residir en esta Nación en búsqueda de mejor bienestar, prosperidad y ejercicio legal de residencia, luego del escrutinio individual y afirmación de sus derechos ante una Corte de Inmigración".
CONLAMIC aboga ademas por la apropiación de recursos necesarios para asegurar la frontera aun si esto implica militarización.
"Es evidente que entre el flujo de inmigrantes voluntarios, miles no cualifiquen para el estatus de refugiados por razones de historial criminal previo y actos delictivos. El peligro de la filtración de elementos subversivos es inminente por lo cual no descartamos la necesidad de mayores recursos para la Patrulla Fronteriza y Agentes de Aduana e Inmigración.
Sin embargo, la discreción en favor de aquellos que inocentemente escapan del atropello delictivo que rige en sus países. Con estas criaturas esta Nación tiene una deuda moral la cual debe cumplir permitiendo el ejercicio de sus derechos como refugiados".
Press Release - nationaljournal.com
By Brian Resnick
June 16, 2014
Why 90,000 Children Flooding Our Border Is Not an Immigration Story
Virtual cities of children are fleeing their homes. This is a lot bigger than U.S. border control, a United Nations protection officer explains.
A boy in Mexico peers through a border fence into Arizona following a special "Mass on the Border" on April 1, 2014 in Nogales, Ariz.(John Moore/Getty Images)
The numbers are astounding.
Just a few weeks ago, the United States was projecting 60,000 unaccompanied minors would attempt to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border by the end of the year. That projection is now 90,000, and it may be surpassed.
Virtual cities of children are picking up and fleeing El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—some of the most dangerous places in this hemisphere. In Washington, the story has stoked the longstanding debate over border policy. But U.S. immigration policy is just a small part of this story. Yes, the U.S. immigration system is now bottlenecked with the influx, prompting emergency response from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But changing U.S. border policy won't stem the root of the exodus.
"The normal migration patterns in this region have changed," Leslie Velez, senior protection officer at the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, explains. These people aren't coming here for economic opportunity. They are fleeing for their lives.
Earlier this year, the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees surveyed 404 children from Mexico and Central America who arrived in the United States illegally, and asked a simple question: Why did you leave? The report found "that no less than 58 percent of the 404 children interviewed were forcibly displaced" to a degree that warranted international protection, meaning that if the U.S. refused these children, it could be in breach of U.N. conventions.
Velez was one of the authors of that report, interviewing undocumented immigrant children across the U.S. immigration system for two hours each. They told Velez and her team stories of extreme violence, and fear of being caught up in gangs. Forty-eight percent of the children "shared experiences of how they had been personally affected by the augmented violence" at the hands of "organized armed criminal actors, including drug cartels and gangs, or by state actors."
Recently, I spoke with Velez over the phone to learn more about the forces motivating children to make the journey north. Below is an edited transcript of our conversation.
When did it become apparent that something out of the ordinary was happening with migration out of Central America?
Our sister agency, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, started the clock at the increase in violence and insecurity in the Northern Triangle in 2006.
Around 2008, it was probably the first time it really hit the U.N. refugee agency's radar. When we went back to the numbers, there was an increase in asylum applications starting as early as 2005. It wasn't too significant until we got to 2008. And in 2008 to 2013 we noted a 712 percent increase that were lodged in countries other than the United States [like Mexico, Panama, Belize, and Costa Rica].
So why are we hearing about this now?
The numbers have been doubling every year since 2011. And for us, that's dramatic. For the U.S. government—who has been really challenged in order to process this large number—I think their capacity has really been tested in the last few weeks. I think that's what generated a lot of attention. Because the numbers have rapidly increased.
And your next followup question is probably going to be, "Why?"
Yes it is. Why?
From reports that we are hearing from individuals on the ground, both from our U.N. offices that are there, as well as NGOs—in particular Catholic Relief Services in El Salvador—they have been really clear that on the ground a few important things are happening.
One is that the criminal armed actors, specifically gangs, are really operating with significant impunity and targeting children at a younger and younger age. Recently there was a very public massacre and dismemberment of children as young as seven who had refused to join the gang. So it was a message to show who is in power, who is in control.
This is a huge story, involving tens of thousands of personal stories and the intricate histories of three troubled countries. But for those unfamiliar with the happenings in Central America—how would you encapsulate what's going on down there?
It's a humanitarian crisis in the region. The numbers are alarming, but the stories behind them are even more so. The situation is basically this: we have weak governments, entrenched poverty, and a growing control and power of criminal actors.
That's a really good question. The kids are vulnerable because they are children. And they are being targeted.
We liken the situation very much to the situation of the recruitment of child soldiers on other continents. Children are particularly vulnerable, they are susceptible to harm, they are easily terrorized, and the very fact that they are children is the single factor in the harm that they are experiencing. They are specifically being target to be recruited. They are the ones who are being bullied.
Much of the news has focused on the U.S. response at the border. But is there much journalism coming out of the conflict areas?
There's really little. Most of the media that covers it well is Spanish media.
Is that changing?
I hope so.
Who is making the decision to flee, to go north? Is it the kids themselves, the parents? How much choice do the kids have in this and how do they make this decision?
I think I hear the question you are asking but I'm going to give you a different answer.
This is a situation of forced displacement. After interviewing 404 children for our own report, when the numbers came back they showed that 58 percent of them were fleeing violence. Very little choice, that they were fleeing.
I think your question went to, well, who has the agency here, is it the children making decision for themselves, the grandparents, the family members? Who is doing it?"
I guess the question back to you is, is there really a choice here? Already in the context of entrenched poverty in which criminal gang armed actors can really act with impunity. This is a bad recipe.
According to reports, as many as 60,000 minors have come to our border this year. When I hear numbers that high, I wonder, is this a systematic form of travel? Are there economies involved in this mass movement of people? Exploitation?
Well, the 60,000 mark was hit maybe a good three or four weeks ago. The projections are about 90,000 by the end of the fiscal year. We're talking about unaccompanied children.
In terms of how they are getting here: So many of them are just invisible. Some people are being smuggled, some people are being trafficked, some people think that they are paying a smuggler and they end up being trafficked, some people come with other relatives. There are so many different stories. And I think there are a lot of actors that are actually exploiting the fact that these children are increasingly vulnerable. And there are a lot of for-profit entities out there that are trying to profit [off] the children who are trying to leave.
Is the answer we just don't know? Is there a fog of information between Central America and the U.S. ?
Last year Mexico apprehended 5,500 [children] in the same year, 23,000 arrived to the United States, and I'm not including Mexicans in the 23,000 figure. These are all children from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Twenty-three thousand of them made it through Mexico without being detected.
In the wake of these trends, some lawmakers have called on increased southern border security for Mexico. What do you make of that?
I think that's a knee-jerk reaction, which is not entirely inappropriate. But any conversation about increasing enforcement of other countries at points south has to include protection from sending people back to where they fear persecution or torture.
I've been reading that these children are coming north on rumors that the United States will let them in, that the Obama administration has lax policies toward minors. Did you find that at all in your survey?
We interviewed 404 children asking extremely open-ended questions as to the reasons and the nature of having left and what they were expecting when they arrived. Out of the 404, only 9 of them mentioned any kind of possibility of the U.S. treating children well. Two said "immigration reform"; one said "I hear they treat kids well." It's very general and from the perspective of a child. But only nine out of 404 said anything about that.
So what is attracting them to the United States?
First, I have to point out to you, it's not just the United States. That was a another red flag for us. There is an increasing trend to seek asylum in Mexico, which is much safer for them than where they are from. The number of asylum seekers in Nicaragua, in Belize, in Costa Rica, in Panama—all of that has grown 712 percent since 2008.
This is not the normal flow. For the U.N. refugee agency to register an uptick in asylum applications in places other than the United States is a huge red flag for us. People are leaving to places where they can find safety.
So what are the countries experiencing the influx?
The U.S, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Belize.
How many people have left El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala? I'm trying to imagine the long-term impacts of tens of thousands of young people leaving their homes behind.
We don't know how many people have left. I can generally signal how many have been picked up on the radar by the states. As of last month we have 45,000 adults who have indicated a fear of return to U.S. border officials. Of that number, approximately 70 percent of that 45,000 figure are from those same three countries.
These are just the folks who are claiming fear of return, getting that registered. This is what has actually hit the radar. We have no idea about how many people don't get intercepted by border authorities. There is no way for us to track the number of individuals that are part of regular migration-enforcement activities.
Already to be talking about a flow of over 100,000 people from three countries is quite alarming.
Are these refugees? Immigrants? Does the distinction matter?
What we learned from our empirical study was that 58 percent of the children we interviewed flagged an international-protection concern. Where we drew the line, was that these children feared return because of violence and insecurity. They feared harm to themselves, and had the single conviction that they could not be protected in their countries. So that was our most conservative lens that we could look at the numbers. We excluded entrenched poverty, we excluded everything else. So 58 percent of the kids, in a statistically significant pool of 404, we wanted to be able to extrapolate to have a significant pool, present international protection concerns.
So what does that mean? We did not interview them [to determine refugee status]. We interviewed them to find out why they left. We did a preliminary screening which to us was enough to say these individuals presented concerns.
Which means that if a country was to reject these people from their borders without allowing them any access to asylum protection or complementary protection processes, it actually would be in breach of the conventions.
Is the U.S. handling this well?
The U.S. is doing everything that I think it possibly can in this short-term context. We have really applauded that President Obama has recognized there is a humanitarian crisis, and that he engaged FEMA and has asked the Secretary of Homeland Security to respond. The machinery is in place, it's starting to move. The domestic response, in the short term, is doing the best that it can to get people out of the bottle necking facilities that are just not equipped to deal with this type of flow.
But what the U.S. could be doing better, is that this is really a regional issue. Each country is unique and if you look at the data in our report about what's happening in each country, you are going to see some clear difference. At the same time it's a regional challenge—people are leaving and they are going to points North, points South—it requires a regional response. It's not on the U.S. alone to solve. But were supporting it to recognize that there is a foreign policy element here to all of the challenges.
The humanitarian response is not going to solve the problem. The faucet has to be turned off or the water is going to keep flowing. To that end, the U.S. needs to address the root causes, and it has a role in addressing the root causes. First, on the top of the list, is to continue violence-prevention efforts—like job creation, education, strengthen women's counsels—do a lot more institution strengthening, more government programs.
What is the American media getting wrong about this story? Or, what's the take-home point we miss?
This is not a migration story. This is a humanitarian crisis, and an example of consequences of weak governments. It's a humanitarian crisis and a foreign policy issue. We're responding in a humanitarian way, and supporting the government to do so, but that's not going to shut off the faucet.
The normal migration patterns in this region have changed. While it is still a mixed migration flow—people are still coming for a number of reasons. There is a growing number of people who are literally fleeing for their lives.