Action Still Needed for Unaccompanied Minors

November 3, 2014
The crisis at the United States’ southern border, caused by violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle region, has quieted since this summer. The gang violence there still rages on, but due to seasonal factors, the number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum has dropped sharply. After Congress failed to give the governmental organizations stretched by the crisis any additional funding, the slowdown in new arrivals has allowed the House and the Senate to avoid another round of funding debates that would likely end in stalemate. Despite less attention being paid in Washington, those unaccompanied minors coming to the United States’ southern border still must deal with troubling conditions once they arrive. Unaccompanied children are being housed in detention centers with questionable histories of upholding rights of those housed there, and many children who are seeking asylum must go to asylum hearings without a lawyer representing them, a situation that Attorney General Eric Holder called “inexcusable.” If deported, many children face gang violence in their home countries, violence that has targeted women and children. Those who are deported from the United States and return to their home countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala have been targeted and killed. Moreover, there are still calls for a rollback of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which prevents the government from deporting children entering the United States alone quickly back to their country of origin, so long as the children are not from Mexico or Canada. No country has the responsibility of protecting all the world’s citizens from all danger. Still, the unaccompanied minors seeking asylum here have made a dangerous journey across three countries and thousands of miles of checkpoints, gang-ruled territory and difficult terrain. Many do not make it all the way to our borders. The ones who do make it know that returning back is tantamount to a death sentence. The United States, as the richest country in the world, certainly has the room to welcome these children and allow them to survive and thrive. We read in the Torah this week the story of the three strangers who appear to Abraham outside of Abraham’s tent. Abraham and Sarah welcome them in and give them food to eat, and in return the strangers are revealed to be messengers of God, who deliver the news that Sarah is to have a son. Welcoming the stranger in need of help has been a central tenet of the Jewish people for as long as we have existed, and these unaccompanied minors are modern-day strangers coming across our tent. Urge Congress not to roll back the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act!

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