Thousands of women and children who fled violence in Central America are being denied fair hearings for asylum and are facing deportation raids. Tell the Department of Homeland Security: stop the raids and ensure fair representation and hearings.
Tell DHS: stop the raids
The recent tactics of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — raiding people's homes and rounding up Central American asylum seekers — are a thinly veiled effort to drive fear within immigrant communities and to further traumatize children and adult asylum seekers who seek safe haven and protection in the United States.
Even more appalling, we have heard from our partner RAICES that some women with cases still pending have been visited for potential roundup and deportation. These cases do not fall within the so-called DHS enforcement priorities. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has described the roundups as part of a strategy meant to deter further migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America: Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. However, the government has been told it cannot use deterrence to institute prolonged detention of these asylum seekers, so it is unclear why they believe they can use this to round up people who have not been given due process to pursue their asylum claims.
The main issue is whether these women and children have been given adequate screening and due process to determine their eligibility for international protection and asylum in the United States. In many cases, the government has hindered their access to legal counsel, denying them the chance to seek humanitarian protection in accordance with international law. A recent exposé by Politico found that between July 18, 2014, and Auguse 31, 2015, nearly 2,800 removal orders were issued by immigration judges for children who were afforded no defense lawyer and only a single hearing. In at least 40% of these cases, the defendant was 16 or younger.
Consistent with the 1980 Refugee Act and the U.N. Convention against Torture, the U.S. government must ensure that all adults and children arriving at the U.S. border who express a fear of serious human rights violations, persecution, or torture be given due process and the opportunity to articulate their fear of return before an asylum officer. The U.S. government stands to violate international legal principle if these women and children have not been afford these opportunities.
How you can help
Take action with UUSC and tell DHS to stop the raids.
Become a refugee family advocate in your city. RAICES is looking for people to help recently arrived refugees find support services. Priority cities are: Dallas, Houston, El Paso, Atlanta, Boston, Baltimore, Charlotte, Memphis, Orlando, Miami, New Orleans, NYC, Chicago, Arlington, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles.
Come to Texas and volunteer to end family detention. The UU College of Social Justice is seeking skilled volunteers, including fluent Spanish speakers, lawyers, law students, and paralegals, to work with families currently in detention this upcoming summer.
Last week, a federal judge ruled that the Obama administration has to stop housing refugee children in jail-like conditions.
This decision could spell the end of family detention — but the Obama administration challenged the initial ruling, and it could continue to appeal it if we don’t act now.
Administration officials have one week to decide whether to appeal the judge’s ruling. As long as they tie this up in court, the fate of these families is up in the air.
Most people are shocked to learn how the United States treats families seeking political asylum: they’re imprisoned in jail-like detention camps where suicide attempts, abusive treatment, and malnourishment are documented realities.
For months, human rights and immigration activists like you have called on the Obama administration to end the practice of detaining children.
I’ve visited the camps these families are stuck in. I’ve met the children. They came to us for safety, and we’ve traumatized them once more.
Their parents haven’t broken any law — they’ve fled death threats and abuse, and they’ve sought refuge from the unchecked violence enveloping Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. And most have passed their initial asylum screenings, which means the Obama administration (DHS) should release them and their families while they await their hearings. Yet DHS has kept these families on lockdown. And as long as DHS keeps appealing and disputing this ruling, women and children who pose no flight risk will stillbe jailed until their final hearings — some forced indiscriminately to wear GPS ankle tracking devices.
The court’s decision has given us the tools we need to end family detention and win more humane treatment of asylum seekers. This is our moment. We can get them to listen.
It just breaks your heart to see children suffering in circumstances like this. Their physical, mental, and emotional development is at stake, and we don’t have a moment to waste.
Thanks for putting your beliefs into action.
Carla DeMore, Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice volunteer, and Mohammad Abdollahi, staff member of RAICES, a UUSC partner, negotiating the release of a woman in detention in early July. Read more about UUSC's work with RAICES on ending family detention and check out the latest updates.
This story of Don Mario Pérez and Equal Exchange is presented as part of UUSC's Guest at Your Table program.
Don Mario Pérez is a farmer in Marcala, Honduras. Together with his wife, Joselinda Manueles, he grows organic coffee that you may serve at your local coffee hour thanks to a longstanding collaboration between Equal Exchange and UUSC. Equal Exchange is a worker-owned, fair-trade food company that UUSC collaborates with — particularly through the UUSC Coffee Project and UUSC’s Good Buy store — to support small farmers like Don Mario throughout the world.
Don Mario is a member of Café Orgánico Marcala (COMSA), a coffee-farm cooperative with more than 850 members and a particularly holistic approach to its work. As Equal Exchange puts it, COMSA’s “philosophy centers on living out and practicing their values in their work, community, and personal life.” Don Mario is passionate about continually learning and talks about “changing the chip” in your brain to open yourself up to new perspectives — “to observe, analyze, think, and invent!” he says. “Experience has taught us that change happens first in your mind and then in your home and on your farm.”
COMSA is a natural match for Equal Exchange, which works toward a more equitable, democratic, and sustainable world through fair trade and supporting cooperative work. As partners of Equal Exchange, COMSA members are compensated fairly for their products, which allows them to better meet their families' basic needs for food, education, and health care — and their long-term security. Plus, consumers are ensured that their coffee is grown sustainably in a way that benefits both workers and the environment. This is at the heart of why UUSC works with Equal Exchange to get coffee — and tea, chocolate, and more — from farmers like Don Mario into the hands of consumers eager for high-quality products that not only taste good but also do good.
Since 2001, UUSC has worked with Equal Exchange through the UUSC Coffee Project to involve more Unitarian Universalists in supporting small farmers by purchasing fair-trade treats in bulk. “Congregations participating through UUSC understand the importance of working with small farmers to change the way that global trade is conducted,” says Susan Sklar, Equal Exchange’s interfaith and community sales manager. “They have supported Equal Exchange’s mission to create alternative trade for over 13 years. Proportionately more UU congregations serve our coffee than any of our other denominational partners.” In 2013 alone, Unitarian Univeralists purchased 77,200 pounds of fairly traded products through the UUSC Coffee Project.
Those Coffee Project purchases benefit Equal Exchange farmer partners like Don Mario — and 20 cents per pound also goes to the UUSC Small Farmers Fund. Through this fund, UUSC works with partners like Muungano, a grassroots organization on the Kenya-Uganda border that provides livelihood support for youth at risk of forced labor and trafficking. Muungano trains youth in planting organic traditional crops, cooking, and building sustainable businesses, in addition to educating communities about nutrition and the potential risks of genetically modified foods.
There is a key concept that ties all of these programs and organizations together — empowering communities to enact sustainable solutions to the challenges they face. Carly Kadlec, an Equal Exchange coffee buyer, articulated it well after a June 2014 visit with Don Mario: “The members of COMSA know that farmers must believe in themselves and their ability to create solutions to challenges. They are inspiring other farmers to recognize their own strength and potential.”
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