On July 24, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth were among the more than 300 faith-based organizations represented by a letter delivered to President Barack Obama and members of Congress urging protection, care and legal counsel for the thousands of Central American children who have fled escalating violence, conflict and exploitation in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Forty national faith organizations alongside 269 regional and local groups from 42 states wrote:
“We strongly object to proposals to detain families with children and any move to roll back the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) in order to effect expeditious deportations. Forcibly and hurriedly returning people in need of international protection back to the dangerous situations they fled without adequate due process would undermine our obligations under international law and our position as a global humanitarian leader and would be a moral disgrace.”
The letter articulates clear policy recommendations for Congress and the Administration and calls for:
· Strengthening the humanitarian response in the United States.
· Legal counsel for all unaccompanied children.
· No roll backs to the provisions of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 relating to unaccompanied children.
· Cost-effective community-based alternatives to detention.
· Adequate services for children, refugees and all groups under the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
In addition, the faith groups urge that the U.S. government must also address the root causes of the crisis faced by children in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The letter calls for increased regional programs to reduce poverty, lack of opportunity and violence so that children and families can live free from fear in their home countries.
This letter follows a petition on unaccompanied children now signed by more than 4,400 people of faith that was hand-delivered to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
- From Therese Horvat, communications director, Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth