1. Statement
  2. Immigrants & Refugees

FCNL Statement for House Judiciary Committee Hearing on Central American Migration

February 4, 2016

Friends Committee on National Legislation’s Statement for the Record for the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, pertaining to its hearing: Another Surge of Illegal Immigrants along the Southwest Border: Is this the Obama Administration’s New Normal?

Quakers seek to answer to that of God in each and every person, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation is especially called to act with openness to refugees, asylum seekers, and victims of trafficking. Individuals, children, and families in crisis throughout the Northern Triangle and fleeing from unimaginable gang and state violence are particularly deserving of protection.

Enforcement will not solve this humanitarian crisis, nor will it prevent people from fleeing for their lives. The United States must act quickly in the short term to address the safety and legal needs of those seeking safe-haven, while also addressing the root causes of violence in Central America. Any effective long-term response must incorporate a radical shift in U.S. policies toward the region.

Increasing the deportations of children and other migrants, along with increased military aid to weakened institutions, has only proven to make situations worse. In fact, the gang violence that is causing many families to flee is a direct result of irresponsible U.S. deportation and foreign policies. Central American gangs (MS-13 and the 18th Street Gang) originated on the streets of Los Angeles, California, formed by migrants who fled the U.S.-funded civil wars of the 1980s. State institutions in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, significantly weakened by the civil wars, were ill-prepared to handle a flood of deportees spurred by the so-called “war on drugs”, allowing current gangs in Central America to flourish.

Today these same countries, fortified by U.S. funding, are repeatedly turning to militarized security programs to address gangs and organized crime. Yet within the context of weak state institutions, rampant corruption, and impunity, these “security” measures only breed more violence and insecurity in the region. The U.S. should instead invest more in strengthening judicial systems, promoting journalistic freedoms, and creating spaces for local civil society members to hold their own governments accountable.

The fear of returning home is credible. Expedited procedures used to deport asylum seekers from the United States has already resulted in 83 deaths accounted for last year. The number is predicted to be much higher including individuals deported from Mexico at the behest of the U.S.-led interdiction program, another example of a deeply flawed enforcement heavy approach.

There is an opportunity to address deep-seeded problems in our region, but proposed and enacted enforcement only policies will only repeat past mistakes. Beefed up border security, weakened legal protections, and expedited deportations will only add to the suffering of traumatized refugees.

Children and families do not want to leave their homes. In the long term, the United States must pursue sound policies that make it safe for them to build a life in their home communities. In the short term, Congress and the Administration must strengthen processes that uphold U.S. and international laws that protect refugees’ and asylum seekers’ due process and right to seek safe haven.