Press Releases

Rep. Roybal-Allard and Women Leaders: We Have a Moral Obligation to Protect Migrant Girls

Members hold press conference to call on Republican Leadership to Preserve Protections in Current Law for Vulnerable Migrant Girls and Women

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Washington, July 16, 2014 | Ben Soskin ((202) 225-1766) | comments
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) and other Members of the Congressional Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform held a press conference this afternoon to discuss the recent surge in unaccompanied children crossing our nation’s southwest border.  The Members discussed how proposals to undermine due process and humanitarian protections for migrants under current law could endanger women and girls who are victims of sexual assault and trafficking.

“To suggest we change the protections of our current laws and indiscriminately send these children back is unconscionable,” said Rep. Roybal-Allard.  “Tragically, to do so would result in returning children who qualify for asylum or other forms of relief to the horror of violent gangs, murder, rape, and the human trafficking they risked so much to escape.  We urge the Republican leadership and Members of Congress to pass a clean emergency supplemental spending bill, and resist any efforts to undermine the basic legal protections afforded these innocent children under our laws.

“Unfortunately, as so often happens in Washington, DC, this issue has been turned into a political circus, and we have lost sight of the immediate humanitarian catastrophe before us.  It is critical that the press focus on the policy, not the politics, surrounding this critical issue.  Instead of talking about which politicians or parties benefit from this discussion, the press needs to pay attention to what really matters: the girls and women who flee rape and assault in their home countries, and then face further rape, assault and trafficking as they make their way north to the United States border.  The women and girls arriving in the United States right now have endured a string of terrors.  The very least we can do is to preserve the American legal protections that give them a chance at fair treatment from our immigration system.”

“The current humanitarian crisis is a women’s equality issue—which requires policy solutions that protect and empower immigrant women and girls,” said Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27), who also attended the press conference.  “Forty percent of the children who arrived in the United States this year alone were girls, many under the age of 12.  The devastating impacts will be felt for generations to come, and it is our job to work together and find a humanitarian solution. We cannot cover our ears to the legitimate cries for help from these women and children seeking safety.  Instead, we must act fast to pass a clean supplemental spending bill, free of legislative riders that diminish crucial protections under the law.”

Below is a copy of Rep. Roybal-Allard’s English-language statement from today’s press conference, followed by a Spanish-language statement.

English-Language Statement

I am here today not only as a Member of Congress, but as a mother and grandmother.  

I cannot begin to imagine the trauma experienced by the mothers and children of Central America, and the desperation that left them with no other option than the treacherous journey to the United States or having to give their children to coyotes in the hope of saving them from the horrors in their homeland.

As so often happens in Washington, D.C., this issue has been turned into a political debate, and we have lost sight of the immediate humanitarian catastrophe before us.  We are here to focus attention on the plight of these children and their mothers, and to highlight the urgency for Members of Congress to support the President’s request to address this crisis.  Our first priority as Americans must be the care of these innocent, traumatized children and to ensure they receive fair, just, and humane treatment under our laws. 

To suggest we change the protections of our current laws and indiscriminately send these children back is unconscionable. Tragically, to do so would result in returning children who qualify for asylum or other forms of relief to the horror of violent gangs, murder, rape, and the human trafficking they risked so much to escape. 

As Americans, we are better than that. We must not put aside our American values and determine the fate of these children without a fair hearing.  In our country, even the most hardened criminals have their day in court, and these children deserve no less.

If our current laws are changed, girls like Estefany will be denied all hope for even a chance of safety.  Beginning at the age of 10, for two long years, Estefany was repeatedly raped in the mud hut she shared with her grandmother in Guatemala.  Eventually, she escaped, and after a long, terrifying journey, she made it to the United States.  Thankfully, under our current laws and with the help of a pro bono attorney, Estefany was able effectively to plead her case.  Today, she has a green card and is leading a productive life in Los Angeles. 

No doubt the recent surge of children at our border has put a strain on our government’s ability to address this crisis.  But who are we if we ignore the plight of children like Estefany and change our laws simply for political expediency?  Let us live up to our heritage as Americans, and fulfill our moral obligation to address this humanitarian crisis in a way that enhances our security and upholds our American values and ideals. 

We urge the Republican leadership and Members of Congress to pass a clean emergency supplemental spending bill, and resist any efforts to undermine the basic legal protections afforded these innocent children under our laws – laws that we passed on a bipartisan basis to help kids facing the very hardships that these young people endured in their home countries.  To do otherwise will only tarnish America’s image to the world as a symbol of democracy, hope, fairness, and respect for the rule of law.  

I’d like to conclude with the wise words of Pope Francis, who said about this crisis, “This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, that these children be welcomed and protected.”  I hope we’ll take his statement to heart as we consider how to best respond to the crisis at our border.

Thanks.

Spanish-Language Statement

Como sucede a menudo en Washington DC la cuestión de las madres y los niños de America Central y la desesperación que les dejo sin otra opción de dejar su país se ha convertido en un debate político y se ha perdido de vista la catástrofe humanitaria inmedi ata ante nosotros. 

Estamos aquí para llamar atención a la situación difícil de estos niños y sus madres, y para recalcar la urgencia de que los líderes republicanos y los miembros del Congreso apoyan un proyecto de ley de gastos suplementarios de emergencia limpio y resisten cualquier esfuerzo por debilitar las protecciones legales básicas a estos niños inocentes bajo nuestras leyes. 

Nuestra primera prioridad como estado unidenses debe ser el cuidado de estos niños inocentes traumatizados y para asegurar que su trato sea justo y humano, consagrado en nuestras leyes. 

Sugerir que cambiemos las protecciones de nuestras leyes actuales y regresar esos niños indiscriminadamente a las condiciones que se arriesgaron tanto para escapar es intolerable. 

Somos mejor que eso. 

No debemos dejar de lado nuestros valores y determinar el destino de estos niños sin un juicio justo. 

En nuestro país, incluso los criminales más endurecidos tienen su día en la corte y estos niños NO merecen menos. 

Como dijo el Papa Francisco "Esta emergencia humanitaria requiere, como primera medida de urgencia, estos niños sean bienvenidos y protegidos."

Gracias!

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