The United States should address the needs of children fleeing violence in Central America, both here and in their home countries
BALTIMORE, MD, June 23, 2014 – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is questioning the decision of the Obama Administration to repatriate unaccompanied children who cross into the United States from Central America, noting that many have legitimate claims to asylum or other protection under U.S. law and that their repatriation could short-circuit the legal process.
“Why should the Administration rush decisions as to the well-being of these children?” asked Bill O’Keefe, Vice President of Government Relations at Catholic Relief Services. “They are the future of their countries. Any hope for those countries depends on their well-being. How we as Americans treat them is a measure of who we are as a nation. It will give them a standard that they will take with them, both here in the United States and back in their native lands.”
As many, perhaps most, of these children are fleeing violence, it is the duty of the U.S government to ensure that they do not find themselves in harm’s way, either in this country or when they return home. At the same time, the United States must work to address the reasons they are taking their perilous journeys, the root causes of their flight.
“Families in Central America know well the dangers of journeying north,” O’Keefe said. “To put one’s child at such risk is not a decision parents takes lightly; they are desperate.”
In addition to violence, entrenched poverty and a lack of economic opportunity in the region fuel this flight. CRS has seen the results of economic development programs as well as programs that help at-risk youth find jobs, go back to school, and develop leadership skills: children remain at home and help create safer communities. More support is needed to expand these proven models to reach many more young people.
“This is a complex situation that requires a comprehensive approach, not the simplistic act of simply sending children back,” O’Keefe said. “The Administration needs to adequately address the needs of children who arrive here with proper social and legal services. At the same time, development assistance to Central America should support violence prevention and workforce development programs so young people don’t feel compelled to flee.”
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About Catholic Relief Services
Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency eases suffering and provides assistance to people in need in 93 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. For more information, visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media: Facebook, Twitter at @CatholicRelief and @CRSnews,Google+, Pinterest and YouTube.