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Facing Anti-Immigrant and Anti-Refugee Attacks

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Authors: Daniella Burgi-Palomino, Lily Folkerts

Criminalizing unaccompanied children and their parents. Ramping up funding for border militarization, family detention, and deportation forces. Turning away asylum seekers fleeing violence. Threatening to strip protections to work and live in the United States from Dreamers and those who received Temporary Protected Status (TPS) after natural disasters. Ending the only program that allowed Central American families and children to apply for protections without having to leave their home countries. Cutting refugee admissions globally, including from Latin America.

And the list goes on. The Trump Administration continues its anti-immigrant and anti-refugee attacks on our communities here and our Latin American neighbors abroad.

TPS WH Protest
Rally in favor of TPS outside the White House.
Photo by Megan Pynes.

Since inauguration, with your help, the Latin America Working Group has fiercely opposed these measures, highlighting their negative impacts on migrants and refugees from Mexico and the Northern Triangle region of Central America and advocating for rights-based foreign policies that address the root causes of migration.

But it hasn’t been easy. Despite our best efforts, funding for ramped-up border security recently passed the House Subcommittee, even though a government internal affairs office concluded that increasing the numbers of CBP and ICE agents is unnecessary, and border communities are some of the safest in the country.

Putting Dreamers in Limbo. To make matters worse, proposals have been floated in Congress to trade increased border security and enforcement for the passage of The Dream Act 2017, legislation that would protect the estimated 800,000 Dreamers. We need to remind our lawmakers that Dreamers are not bargaining chips but rather young Americans who have only ever known the United States as their home. And they’re no different from the millions of other immigrants living here, all of which would be at greater risk for deportation and apprehension should this tradeoff be made.

Already Dreamers, the majority coming from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru, wait in limbo. Almost 8,000 Dreamers have already lost protection since the September announcement of the phasing out of DACA. Should the Dream Act not pass, some will keep protection through 2020, and more will face the risk of deportation beginning through March 2018. We can’t let this happen.

Ending Temporary Protected Status. Just this month, the administration announced the termination of TPS for Nicaraguans and failed to make a decision on Honduras, leaving Hondurans in a cruel uncertainty for another 6 months. Now, 2,500 Nicaraguans will lose protection to live and work here, and over 300,000 Haitians, Hondurans, and Salvadorans may face the same fate. Like Dreamers, terminating their status would leave them immediately at risk of deportation. But unlike Dreamers, there is no widely supported legislation that would provide a path to citizenship or permanent residency—yet over half have lived in the United States for over twenty years, over half speak English, and many have US citizen children and own homes and businesses.

With your calls and encouragement, some of our lawmakers signed letters calling for an extension of TPS for Salvadorans and Hondurans. Now, Congress needs to pass legislation to protect them.

Restricting Access for Refugees. This fall, the Trump Administration terminated the Central American Minors (CAM) program, the only program that allowed Central American families and children to apply for protections without having to leave their home countries. Now, children in dangerous situations can no longer temporarily reunite with their family members already in the United States, ending any hope to receive international protection without having to leave their homes and driving them into the arms of smugglers.

Refugee admissions are also being restricted from around the world to the lowest numbers seen in our recent history. The proposal for next year limits the number of refugees accepted from Latin America to just 1,500 individuals.

False Narratives. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has repeatedly called unaccompanied children from Central America “wolves in sheep’s clothing” who are taking advantage of the asylum system. We know better. Children and families from Central America and Mexico aren’t perpetrators, they’re fleeing from them. They didn’t come here because of DACA—a program only applicable to youths who have continuously resided in the United States since 2007. Many came here because of violence in their homelands. And many that make the difficult trek to our border, presenting claims of persecution and of fear to return home, are turned away by abusive Border Patrol agents or rejected because of biased immigration judges.

intersWRDrally
LAWG interns Ellie and Caroline at a rally for
immigrant and refugee rights outside of the
White House. Photo by Lily Folkerts.

So, what does this mean? And as all these heartless decisions are made, consideration of the impact that ending these programs could have on the security and economies of the region has received little thought. Deporting over a million individuals would not only break up mixed status families in the United States, but would also have a destabilizing impact on the region—undermining an already dire public security situation, cutting off remittances to weak economies, and potentially setting off another wave of displacement and migration to the United States.

And, what can we do? Yes, the list is long. And we haven’t even seen the impacts of these policies down the line. We know this isn’t a short-term fight, and we’re in it for the long haul. In the meantime, here’s a few ways you can take action and join us in pushing back:

Call your member of Congress. Better yet, gather a group and meet with your member in the district office or attend a town hall. Urge them to: