Non-negotiable. You Don’t Trade the Protection of One Child for Another

 

The White House submitted its proposal to Congress plan in which it would allegedly support some kind of protection for DREAMers in exchange for taking away protections from unaccompanied children.  Rolling back protections for unaccompanied children—children fleeing violence in Central America—is literally at the top of the administration’s list of demands.

The White House plan suggests that children as young as two, ten or even fifteen years old are intentionally exploiting a “loophole” in the law by fleeing to our border to ask for protection. Nothing could be further from the truth. We know from more than a decade of experience serving children. When unaccompanied children have attorneys and have their day in immigration court they win their cases. In other words, despite our very stringent criteria for granting legal protection, children are proving that they were subjected to persecution, trafficking and abuse. And they’re doing so against tremendous odds, in a system where they carry all of the responsibility to prove their case.

Yet the administration has proposed—in exchange for an ambiguous commitment to DREAMers—turning these children away at the border. No opportunity to meet with a lawyer. No opportunity to state their claim to a judge. Why? Because these children—six-year-olds, nine-year-olds, sixteen-year-olds—have been cast as malicious wrongdoers, rather than victims of unspeakable country conditions that our government refuses to address.

 

The Young Center stands for the protection and best interests of all immigrant children and youth. DREAMers. DACA recipients. Unaccompanied immigrant children. Not every child who comes to the U.S. border will be permitted to stay. That has always been the case. But each child must have an opportunity to tell their story. Jennifer Nagda, Young Center Policy and Program Director, says “any adult who has worked with children in a professional capacity—and any parent—knows that children must have a chance to feel safe to tell their story. The children we serve have been threatened with death by gangs, they have been beaten, raped, they have escaped severe abuse, or lived on the streets having to fend for themselves. These children need time to mend. They need time to trust an adult well enough to tell their story. To have a Child Advocate who fights for their best interests. To talk to a lawyer, and go before a judge.”

The last year has sorely tested our faith in the rule of law, in justice, in fairness. We will not stand by as the government throws away protections for unaccompanied immigrant children to provide false hope to DREAMers and DACA recipients. Maria Woltjen, Executive Director, says “all of these children, youth and young adults deserve better. This proposed deal is non-negotiable. We won’t trade the protection of one child for another.” DREAMERs deserve a clean DREAM act. DACA recipients deserve the promise made to them, that the personal information they provided so courageously will not be used to deport them. And unaccompanied children who come to our border asking for help deserve an opportunity to be heard in a fair proceeding. After all, we would want and expect this for the children in our own lives.