Stop the deportation raids against Central American refugees
The Obama administration just launched a new wave of deportation raids targeting children and families who fled violence in Central America.1 It’s incredibly dangerous, irresponsible, and inhumane: since 2014, dozens of Central American refugees have been murdered just months after they were deported.2
Many of the children targeted for deportation are facing a rushed, unfair process that gives them no chance to make their case in court.3 Children have been ordered deported after not showing up in court – despite the fact that they never received a notification to appear. The accelerated, aggressive deportation processes put in place by the Obama administration have led to these due process violations. To send refugees back into dangerous situations – especially without a fair process – goes against the values of the United States, and it may violate international law.
This new wave of raids is becoming an issue in the presidential campaign, so what we do now to stand up against the raids could have a huge impact on immigration policy for years to come.
We already know that the Republican presidential candidates, led by Donald Trump, are committed to harsh anti-immigrant policies. But with President Obama initiating these raids, it’s less clear what the Democratic party’s position is on immigration.
Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley have spoken out forcefully against the raids and called for them to stop.4,5 Hillary Clinton’s position is less clear – a campaign spokesperson said she has “concerns” about the raids, but she hasn’t called for them to stop.6 And in the past, she’s said that the unaccompanied children coming to the United States to escape violence in Central America should be deported.7 We need to raise our voices now to make sure all the Democratic candidates know we expect them to fight for justice for immigrants, and that they can’t take Latino votes for granted.
The U.S. legacy in Central America
Many of the immigrants who recently entered the country are fleeing violence in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala – countries with some of highest rates of violence in the world. Much of the violence – perpetrated by police, paramilitary gangs, and drug gangs – is the legacy of decades of anti-democratic U.S. intervention in the region.
Over and over again in Latin America, the United States government has undermined democracy, supported and trained oppressive military and police forces, and sent weapons. During the cold war, in the name of fighting communism, the CIA helped overthrow democratically elected governments, replacing them with violent dictators friendly to the U.S. The notorious “School of the Americas” – a U.S. military base in Georgia – trained Latin American dictators and their paramilitary foot soldiers in the use of torture and assassinations.
U.S. aggression towards Latin America isn’t a thing of the past. In 2009, a military coup in Honduras – orchestrated by the country’s economic elite – overthrew democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya. The U.S. officially claimed to be against the coup – but the U.S. State department, led by Hillary Clinton, negotiated with the perpetrators of the coup, and did everything it could to ensure that Zelaya would not return to power.8,9,10 Since Zelaya was overthrown, violence – from the government, gangs, and everything in between – has plagued Honduras.11,12,13
In addition to the all the military and political intervention, the United States’ War on Drugs has fueled a massive criminal economy in Latin America, funding violent drug gangs that terrorize and kill.
The U.S. has an obligation to give refuge to all immigrants who come here to escape violence. But when children and families from Central America come to the U.S. to seek safety from the violence in their countries, the U.S. has a special responsibility, given the role it has played in the region. Instead, the Obama administration is sending people back into a violent environment the U.S. helped create, with very little regard for their safety or rights as human beings.
If enough of us call out President Obama now, it will help make this an issue in the presidential campaign, increasing the pressure on Obama to end the raids. It will also force Hillary Clinton to take a clear position for or against these raids, putting us in a better position to hold all the presidential candidates accountable to Latinos.
- “Obama administration kicks off family deportation raids“, Politico, January 4, 2016
- “US government deporting Central American migrants to their deaths“, The Guardian, October 12, 2015
- “7,000 immigrant children ordered deported without going to court“, Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2016
- “O’Malley pushes Obama administration to end immigration raid plans“, CBS News, December 31, 2015
- “Sanders writes Obama, urges end to recently started deportation raids“, The Washington Post, January 7, 2016
- “Hillary’s border crisis“, Politico, December 30, 2015
- “Hillary Clinton Now Says She Has “Concerns” About Deporting Migrant Children“, The Intercept, December 28, 2015
- “EXCLUSIVE: Hillary Clinton sold out Honduras: Lanny Davis, corporate cash, and the real story about the death of a Latin American democracy“, Salon, June 8, 2015
- “Hard choices: Hillary Clinton admits role in Honduran coup aftermath“, Aljazeera, September, 29, 2014
- “During Honduras Crisis, Clinton Suggested Back Channel With Lobbyist Lanny Davis“, The Intercept, July 6, 2015
- “Hopeless in Honduras?“, Foreign Affairs, November 22, 2013
- “Honduran Coup Regime in Crisis“, The Nation, October 26, 2009
- “Correction: Honduras-Death Squads story“, Associated Press, May 1, 2013