On July 25 in front of the White House, GHRC in conjunction with CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador), School of the Americas Watch, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, and CARECEN (Central American Resource Center) hosted a rally in support of the protection of Central American child migrants. The rally was held at 3 pm, during which time President Obama, President Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala, President Salvador Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador, and President Juan Hernández of Honduras were meeting to discuss the next steps to preventing child migration to the US.
After the rally ended, President Pérez Molina exited the White House in a black armored limousine, but turned around in response to the chants of participants to give statements to reporters. Fox News Latino reports that the president said, “we leave very satisfied knowing that we can move forward and that we’ll be able to tackle the underlying problems [of child migration].” On how child migrants in the US will be housed, President Molina said, “The process to make sure the children end up with their families will be expedited, but those children without families [in the US] and that judges find can’t stay, will have to leave. The rule of law will be respected.”
A concern with this so-called respect of the rule of law is that US legislation in response to the crisis will fail to address the root causes forcing these children to leave their homes and make the perilous journey to the US. Amongst speakers from a variety of civil society organizations and religious institutions, GHRC Assistant Director Kathryn Johnson discussed these root causes of migration as well as the United States’ long history of intervening in Guatemala in ways that have contributed to poverty and insecurity in the country.
Alexis Stoumbelis, director of CISPES, also expressed specific concern regarding proposed changes to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 — a law which currently protects children by requiring them to have a hearing before a judge and to have an attorney present.
As proposals to deal with the child migration crisis move forward, GHRC will continue to call on the US government to treat all migrants with dignity, and accept its legal and humanitarian responsibilities to protect refugee children and youth.