Our executive director, Angie Plummer, sent a letter last week to the editor of the Dispatch that, as of today, has not yet been published. Continue reading to see the full letter, which urges Congress to uphold the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.
Congress Must Reject Rollbacks to Child Protection Law:
As the US government responds to the humanitarian crisis faced by children and families fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, both President Obama and some members of Congress are proposing to weaken important legal protections for these vulnerable children.
The presence of tens of thousands of refugee children at our southern border poses a legal and humanitarian dilemma. Through a rare act of bipartisan collaboration, both chambers of Congress unanimously passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act in 2008. This act, signed into law by President Bush is a critical American law that prevents the US from deporting children back into the hands of traffickers and others who seek to exploit them. It is inaccurate and illogical to blame this law for these children fleeing to the US. These children are fleeing escalating conflict, violence, gang activity and exploitation.
In fact, they are fleeing not only to the US, but also to Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Belize. These countries have seen a seven-fold increase in refugees between 2008 and 2013.
The humanitarian response to the crisis is obvious. We cannot allow thousands of refugee children to be returned to exploitation, trafficking, rape and even death. Our country has always been a beacon of hope and welcome to the sojourner. Many communities throughout our country are helping to lead the response to provide care and support to these kids, with thousands of people donating, volunteering and serving as foster families to welcome these children into their homes. So, although the short-term response to the crisis is obvious, we must also look to the longer term to reduce the likelihood of such crises in the future.
This humanitarian crisis will not be solved at the border. It is in our own long-term interest to work with El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to create conditions such that children and families do not have to flee for their lives.
This is not a US immigration crisis, it is a refugee crisis. This is a life and death crisis for children who are fleeing rape, violence and exploitation. Any parent who would risk sending a child on the dangerous journey to the US can only be desperate to save that child from something worse. We’re a nation of more than 300 million people. We can easily muster the moral courage and resources to protect children who are fleeing violence, rape and exploitation. How our nation responds to these most vulnerable children defines who we are as a nation. We must not fail them or ourselves.