U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein
11111 Santa Monica Boulevard, Suite 915
Los Angeles, CA 90025
September 9, 2014
Dear Senator Feinstein:
We, representatives of the immigrant, civil and human rights, faith, labor and community based organizations, urge you to assert your leadership to ensure that the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) is not repealed and/or amended. We are deeply concerned that President Obama’s request to amend TVPRA and his move to speed deportations of unaccompanied children will circumvent the protections of the bipartisan TVPRA which you authored.
Congress gave consideration to the unique circumstances of children when it enacted the TVPRA. The law includes protections, such as, facilitation of counsel and the appointment of child advocates that can help ensure that unaccompanied children receive proper care and that their request for asylum and other legal relief are processed fairly and in a way that is consistent with their age and needs.
As it stands the proposed discussions appear to place at risk these existing legal protections, jeopardizing the lives of children seeking safety in the United States. Undermining due process and equal protection under the law is not the answer to the crisis of unaccompanied Central American children arriving at the US-Mexico border and it will certainly not appease the criticism of those who have been calling for more punitive and aggressive enforcement.
We are extremely concerned about the violation of due process by the so-called “rocket docket” directive, which places these children’s cases ahead of those of other immigrants, gives attorneys only three weeks to prepare cases that normally take up to a year to develop, and denies the children time to receive even basic counseling, a fundamental need given the trauma they have endured. We believe that fast tracking of these cases is actually denying due process both to the children and to other immigrants who are following the law but whose cases are delayed by this tactic.
In this sense we are equally concerned about the expedited removal of unaccompanied children from Mexico since they are facing similar situations as the minors fleeing from Central America. We urge you to consider revisiting the procedure that allows for cursory screening that has already proven entirely inadequate to identify genuine refugee claims for Mexican children.
The cost of pushing vulnerable children back into a situation of imminent death is simply too high and our nation cannot compromise on fundamental principles of compassion, fairness, and due process, nor our obligations under international refugee protection agreements for human rights.
Now is the time for the United States to demonstrate its international leadership and commitment to refugee protection and due process. We oppose any plan to amend the TVPRA to weaken the protections afforded to children from Central America, and we urge you to encourage congress to ensure that the rights and safety of these children are guaranteed.
Red Nacional Salvadorena en el Exterior (RENASE)
Central American Resource Center (CARECEN)
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)
CLEAN Carwash Campaign
Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project
Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales (FIOB)
Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional
Red Mexicana de Líderes y Organizaciones Migrantes (Red MX)
Salvadoran American Leadership & Educational Fund (SALEF)
Movimiento Primero de Abril