Just as families were preparing to celebrate Christmas, there were reports that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was planning to detain and deport Central American children and adults who entered the United States seeking asylum and have had a final order of removal since January 1, 2014. This includes children and families who lost their asylum cases because they were unable to find adequate legal counsel, as well as individuals who were given deportation orders in absentia or through “rocket dockets” that are meant to expedite trials but in reality deny due process.
Many of those rounded up by Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids are being sent to the family detention facility in Dilley, Texas to await deportation. There lawyers with the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Representation and Advocacy Project have had some success in staying deportations. “Our interviews revealed that these families have bona fide asylum claims, but were deprived of a meaningful opportunity to present them at their hearings in immigration court,” said Katie Shepherd, managing attorney for the CARA Project. She continued, “It’s beyond shameful that these families, who risked everything to seek protection in the United States, were being forcibly returned to the violence and turmoil they fled in Central America.”
Faith leaders have voiced concern over this latest move by the Obama administration. The chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration has written that the migration surge from Central America is a refugee crisis because children and mothers with young families are fleeing extreme violence. Faith groups have called on the Administration to offer a humanitarian response to these migrants and protect and care for children and families fleeing violence in the region which includes due process and legal assistance to adjudicate asylum and refugee claims as well as addressing the root causes of violence forcing so many individuals to flee.
Immigrant advocates are hoping to persuade the administration to abandon its inhumane policy. Advocates are compiling stories of Central American children and families in local communities who have been rounded up and deported as a result of this recent decision. Demographic information, as well as information about their reasons for migration, and the nature of the deportation, will be extremely helpful in telling the story of the devastating impact of this misguided policy. Stories may be sent to LCWR associate director for social mission Ann Scholz, SSND at firstname.lastname@example.org