Press Release: Telling Central American Migrants to Stay at Home Ignores Conditions on the Ground and Human Right to Seek Protection

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Press Release


Daniella Burgi-Palomino,
(202) 546-7010 |

LAWG: Telling Central American Migrants to Stay at Home Ignores Conditions on the Ground and Human Right to Seek Protection

June 27, 2018

Washington D.C.–Ahead of the visit of Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to Guatemala to meet with the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador tomorrow, June 28th, the Latin America Working Group (LAWG) urges the United States to recognize an individual’s right to seek protection from persecution and violence and reaffirm a commitment to rights-based assistance to address the root causes of this migration.

The visit of Vice President Pence and Secretary Nielsen to Central America comes in the midst of the separation of over 2,000 children that has resulted in severe trauma and even deaths for families under the administration’s “zero tolerance policy.” Many representatives of the administration have referenced family separation as a strategy to deter migrants from coming to the U.S. border. At a meeting in Brazil yesterday, Vice President Pence sent a message to Central American migrants not to risk their lives to come to the United States and that if they cannot come legally, they should “not come at all.”

“Vice President’s message to Central American migrants ahead of his visit is completely unfounded in reality and ignores an individual’s right to seek international protection from the persecution they are fleeing. Telling someone to stay at home leaves them between a wall and a dangerous place and sentences them to death. Instead of going to Guatemala to repeat the same, ineffective message of deterrence, Vice President Pence and Secretary Nielsen should take this opportunity to recognize the conditions pushing people out from their homes and to meet with individuals and civil society affected by the violence and natural disasters,” states Daniella Burgi-Palomino, Senior Associate for Mexico, Migrant Rights and Border Issues.

LAWG has documented the conditions of violence, corruption, and impunity forcing individuals to leave their homes in Central America in a report, “Between a Wall and a Dangerous Place.” In addition, the administration terminated the only in-country processing program that allowed children an opportunity to apply for protection in the United States without having to leave their home countries at the end of last year. Family unity, due process, and the right to seek asylum should be upheld as a part of U.S. national and international law at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Since 2015, the United States has allocated over $2.6 billion in foreign assistance for the U.S. Strategy for Central America. LAWG has advocated for United States assistance to address, not exacerbate, the root causes of migration from Central America by supporting humanitarian assistance, small-scale rural development, strengthened judicial systems, anti-corruption mechanisms, and institutions addressing child welfare agencies and sexual and gender based violence.