Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Lauri Alvarez, Program Associate
Washington D.C.-Today, a group of U.S. human rights, foreign policy, faith, children’s rights, and humanitarian organizations released Serve Your People, a report that provides a roadmap for transforming relations between the United States and the northern countries of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) under a new administration. The United States’ approach towards the region from 2017-2020 has had one near exclusive focus—stopping migration. The U.S. government has turned a blind eye towards the drivers of the forced migration from these countries and in doing so, has allowed governments in the region to remove obstacles to their own corruption and scale up abuses against their own citizens. At the same time, the Trump Administration has eviscerated access to protection for refugees and asylum seekers at our border and throughout the region.
U.S. policy towards the northern countries of Central America is in urgent need of transformation. The report highlights priority areas for a new policy that goes far beyond undoing recent attacks on the rights of asylum seekers, immigrants, and migrants. It recommends starting with principled diplomacy against corruption and for human rights and standing with civil society forces for change in Central America. This vision calls for supporting equitable development strategies and helping countries address the impact of climate change. The report also outlines ways the United States can help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Americas. It recommends restoring and advancing access to protection for migrants and refugees at our border and throughout Mexico and Central America. These actions must be driven by a new vision that encourages Central American governments to serve their people, with equity and justice, reverting away from enforcement-centric immigration policies to ones that are humane, inclusive, and just.
“A new vision starts with rolling back the immense damage to international protections for refugees and migrants that we have seen in recent years,” said Lisa Haugaard, co-director of the Latin America Working Group Education Fund. “But it must not stop there. The United States should adopt immigration policies that are humane and inclusive. In Central America, the U.S. government must demonstrate through its words and actions that it stands not with corrupt officials but with the citizens seeking to build more just societies. The message to Central American leaders should not be: Stop your people from fleeing. It must be: Serve your people well so they can choose to stay.”
“Seeking refuge is not a crime, which in the context of Central America, still means seeking refuge from persecution and violence but now also from climate change,” says Amali Tower, founder and executive director of Climate Refugees. “It’s long overdue to end the shameful assault on asylum policy, but also to have a wider conversation, which includes climate justice policies that represent the voices of migrant farmers who tell us about climate change impacts we know they had little role in creating, yet are forced to flee.”
“Informed by our faith and the compassion of the American people, global humanitarian aid agency Church World Service urges a new vision for U.S. policy toward the Northern Triangle countries of Central America,” asserts Martin Shupack, director of advocacy for Church World Service. “U.S. policy should prioritize poverty reduction and broad-based development, while addressing climate change and gender-based violence. U.S. protections for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) should be restored, and the U.S. must ensure access to asylum and humanitarian protection. A new administration must end anti-asylum measures and embrace humane immigration and asylum policies.”
“In the context of a global health crisis, U.S. engagement with Central America is more important than ever,” said Lisa Frydman, vice president of international programs at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). “The social, health, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly exacerbate the underlying factors that have forced so many children to migrate. We have already seen COVID-19 fuel increased levels of gender-based violence, extreme economic inequality, and lack of government accountability. Inclusive, sustainable foreign assistance is essential. The U.S. must support systems and programs that ensure the safety and well-being of children at every phase of their migration journeys, while making long-term investments that strengthen child protection systems in countries of origin and ultimately address the root causes of forced migration.”
To read the complete report click here.