Statement by Rep. Roybal-Allard at Press Conference on Unaccompanied Minors
The following is a statement that Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) delivered at today’s Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) press conference on the unaccompanied minors situation:
As Americans, we have always been a beacon of hope and a symbol of fairness for those desperately fleeing violence and oppression from anywhere in the world.
So, as we try to address the crisis of young children escaping to our country from Central America, we must not abandon our American ideals or our moral obligation to care for these children.
Faced with unspeakable violence in their countries, these children are leaving their homes and fleeing to the United States in the hope of finding a safe haven.
These are kids like Belkis, a 13 year old girl from El Salvador.
Her uncle and her grandmother were murdered by gang members, who then threatened her brothers with an ultimatum to join the gang or die. Unwilling to become members of the gang, her brothers fled for their lives.
When the gang began stalking Belkis, she too feared for her life and embarked on a terrifying 6 month journey to the United States.
Belkis’ story is just one of the many horrifying experiences from which these children are fleeing.
Our country’s response to this crisis must be grounded in our value of children and in our respect for the rule of law.
There’s no doubt the recent surge of children at our border has put a strain on our government and its ability to meet their needs.
Unless Congress acts, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, by the end of August, will exhaust all of its funding to care for these children.
To avoid an even greater humanitarian crisis, we urge the Republican leadership to quickly pass a clean emergency supplemental spending bill and to not undermine the basic legal protections afforded these children under our laws.
The terror and turmoil from which these kids are fleeing is real.
Short-term political considerations must not come before the long-term interests of children who may unjustly be returned to the violence and death from which they fled.
Let’s live up to our moral obligations as Americans to address the humanitarian crisis on our border in a way that enhances our security, upholds our American values and reflects our love of children.
In addition, CHC Chairman Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15) and other Members of the CHC released the following statements after today's press conference.
CHC Chairman Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15): "The Congressional Hispanic Caucus stands up in defense of the unaccompanied minors from Central America. This is an issue that is especially concerning to us because these are our kids. The children coming from our neighboring Latin American countries could be our nieces, nephews, grandkids. As a Caucus, we continue to fight for immigration reform and now, we join together to stand up for these unaccompanied children. We must ensure these children are protected under the law and that we find solutions to this humanitarian issue at hand."
CHC First Vice Chair Ben Ray Luján (NM-03): “As Congress addresses this important issue of children and families arriving at our border, which is only further exasperated by the lack of comprehensive immigration reform, we cannot lose sight of the fact that this is a humanitarian crisis. Many of the people fleeing to our southern border are doing so out of fear and desperation due to the threat of violence in their home countries. Yesterday, I met with nuns from New Mexico who have been on the front lines working to provide humanitarian aid to these children, and they told me a story that is tragically common throughout the region, of children being forced to join a gang and a family that was murdered to be made an example of when they tried to stand up to protect their child. As we move forward to address the President’s request and the supplemental that will be brought to the House floor, we must not forget the plight of these children and the desperate circumstances they have faced in their home country. We must also work with our neighbors and allies in the region to see how we can help address the root cause of the violence that has gripped these countries.”
CHC Second Vice Chair Linda Sánchez (CA-38): "These children fled their countries through no fault of their own and they deserve their legal rights to due process provided under our current laws. Congress needs to act quickly and approve the supplemental funding that will allow our agencies to enforce our laws. As we near the end of our legislative calendar, I urge my Republican colleagues to get off the political fence and get to work on reforms that address our broken immigration system."
CHC Immigration Task Force Chair Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL-04): “The CHC is unified in supporting the fair treatment of children fleeing violence who are apprehended at our border and we support the President following the law and giving children a meaningful day in court to protect their rights under our laws. At the same time, we are urging the President to act boldly under current law to extend prosecutorial discretion and take other executive actions to fix our broken immigration system now that Republicans have failed to allow legislation to proceed. Clearly Republicans would rather sue the President than help him solve national problems or work with Democrats to serve the American people, and on immigration and the treatment of immigrants – especially children – Republicans will have to contend with the CHC.”
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ): “For Republicans to politicize the heart-wrenching decision to send a child away as opportunistic and a way to take advantage of American law is as cynical a position as I have ever heard. We need to provide the President with the money he needs to handle the refugee crisis on our southern border. At the same time, I will strongly oppose any attempts to roll back current laws designed to protect the ability of these children and families to apply for asylum, trafficking protection and other specialized forms of relief. While not every child will have a valid claim, it is critically important that every child be given the chance to have due process. The bottom line is that we have to attack this problem from an immigration perspective, a foreign policy perspective, a refugee perspective, and a national security perspective. I am concerned and I am angry and it’s time to fight back, but right now it’s time to address the humanitarian crisis on our border."
Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07): “First and foremost, we must keep in mind these are children. We have a moral responsibility to ensure they receive assistance and are treated in a dignified, humane manner. How we treat the most vulnerable among us reflects on our character as a nation, and we must rise to the occasion to address this crisis.”
Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32): "Congress, Republicans included, has voted three times since 2002 to include protection for refugees of violence. America is still in financial crisis, yet we have always been the beacon of hope for the oppressed around the world. Children must be protected not only by us but by their own governments, and we must go after the criminals who are threatening, killing, maiming, and trafficking them. It is critical that we follow the rule of law and our own immigration laws with compassion for these children who have been forced to flee their home countries."
Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (CA-46), a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee: "This is not a ‘border security’ problem. This is a complex humanitarian crisis that is a result of dire situations in these children’s home countries: escalating gang violence, weak government institutions, a lack of social services and economic opportunity. But how poorly this is being addressed on our side is a result of our broken immigration system and we cannot brush this under the rug any longer.”
Congressman Tony Cárdenas (CA-29): "This is not about enforcing immigration laws, because these are not immigrants seeking to come to America. They are refugee children seeking asylum from their war-torn countries, where they fear for their lives. America has always been the land where the persecuted could seek protection. This is who we are as a nation. The children at our southern border deserve our protection, they deserve due process, and if sending them home would put them in danger, they deserve sanctuary."
Congressman Joe Garcia (FL-26): “These children are but a symptom of a very broken immigration system that has failed our country for decades. We must focus our attention on the bigger picture – passing comprehensive immigration reform – and in the meantime, treat these children with the compassion they morally and legally deserve.”
Congressman Juan Vargas (CA-51): “Our nation is facing a humanitarian crisis in which we have an opportunity to demonstrate the best values of our society. It is our duty and international obligation to provide due process for the children and families fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries. We must come together and treat them with dignity, compassion, respect and love. As we consider approving additional funds in response to this situation, we must protect a child’s right to due process under existing law.”