The National Immigrant Justice Center and the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities have petitioned the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights to direct the U.S. government not to deport Central American or Mexican children who flee to the United States to escape gang recruitment, kidnapping, torture, rape, death threats, and other extreme violence in their home countries.
Lawyers from the firm Hughes Socol Piers Resnick and Dym as well as the International Human Rights Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School prepared the petition.
“These children have a right to be heard,” said Mary Meg McCarthy, director of the National Immigrant Justice Center. “And they need time to recover from the trauma they have suffered before they can tell their stories, and attorneys to help them present those stories in court. The Obama administration’s plan to speed up their deportation hearings is just wrong.”
The petition requests that the Inter-American Commission issue “precautionary measures,” similar to an injunction, to halt expedited deportation procedures in which the U.S. government is hurrying children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras through immigration courts within weeks of their arrival at the U.S. border. These summary court procedures deprive children of their rights to seek protection under U.S. and international laws.
The petition also challenges the U.S. government’s treatment of unaccompanied Mexican children, who receive only cursory screening interviews, without access to counsel, before officials determine whether to permit them to proceed to immigration court. In most cases, unaccompanied Mexican children are deported to Mexico within a few days of their arrival at the U.S. border. Legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives this month would subject children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to the same truncated procedures Mexican children already face.
“Central American immigrants are very concerned about the treatment these children and their parents are receiving from what we thought was a family-friendly government.” said Oscar Chacon of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities. “We are hoping that the commissioners of the Inter-American Commission will see this situation differently from U.S. public officials who are making cynical electoral calculations about policy.”
A U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees report found that 58 percent of children fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico may be eligible for protection. Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse found that access to attorneys is critical to children's ability to win protection: children with legal counsel were almost five times more likely to be allowed to remain in the United States.
“Both international law and the U.S. Constitution, which protects these children once they are in our territory, require that the children receive fair hearings,” said Susan Gzesh, of counsel at Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym.
The Inter-American Commission, created as an organ of the Organization for American States in 1948, is an autonomous seven-member commission whose mission is to protect human rights in the Western Hemisphere.
Download the petition documents: