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Love and Loathing in North Texas Amid Child Refugee Crisis

Refugee policy and legal experts...believe President Obama's funding request largely misses the point by emphasizing harsh deterrence and increased security measures rather than providing much-needed funding for humanitarian aid and addressing the root causes of the current influx. Read the article by Candice Bernd, Truthout.

Obama aides were warned of brewing border crisis

"I think the administration was dealing with it at a minimal scale, putting a Band-Aid on something they should have been thinking about holistically,” said Michelle Brané, Director of Migrant Rights and Justice at the Women's Refugee Commission. Read the article by David Nakamura, Jerry Markon and Manuel Roig-Franzia in the Washington Post.

Why the Central American Children Migrants Need Full Adjudication of Their Protection Claims

A series of recent reports have identified multiple causes [for the humanitarian disaster], including the threat of gang, cartel and domestic violence; official corruption in sending states; criminal impunity; poverty and lack of opportunity; and the strong desire for family unity. Read the article by Donald Kerwin, Executive Director, Center for Migration Studies, on Huffington Post.

The real failures of immigration policy

Michelle Brané, Director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women's Refugee Commission, says it's like using threats to keep people in a burning house. Read the full article by Steve Chapman in the Washington Examiner.

Michelle Brané on Immigrant Children

Parents have told Michelle Brané, WRC's Director, Migrant Rights and Justice; "I would rather see my child die trying to get to safety than to see them die on my doorstep." Watch on ComCast.

Why Are Immigration Detention Facilities So Cold?

"I've talked to children who took the toilet paper they got and laid it on the floor and laid down on that, because it's one barrier between them and the cement floor," says Jennifer Podkul of the Women's Refugee Commission. Read the article by Molly Redden in Mother Jones.

Send Them Home. Save Their Lives. Jail Their Mayors. 9 Child-Migrant Solutions

Jennifer Podkul, senior program officer at the Women's Refugee Commission says; "Children who have just survived a harrowing journey should not be forced to recount some of the most painful experiences of their lives to a border patrol agent wearing a uniform and a gun. Read the full article by Esmé E. Deprez on Bloomberg News.

What’s leading immigrants to leave home?

Michelle Brané, WRC Director of Migrant Rights and Justice, appears on MSNBC to explain what's driving children to cross the US border, and what should be done about it. Watch the interview on MSNBC.

The Children of the Drug Wars: A Refugee Crisis, Not an Immigration Crisis

"If a house is burning, people will jump out the window," says Michelle Brané, Director of Migrant Rights and Justice at the Women's Refugee Commission. Read the op-ed in the New York Times.

Putting A Face On Immigration Surge: Unaccompanied Minors Have Difficulty Navigating The System

Children and their legal rights simply have not been part of the immigration equation up till now. Read the story, which featured Michelle Brané, Director of Migrant Rights and Justice and appeared on Fox News Latino.

Obama heads to Texas with no plans to visit border

For President Barack Obama, the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border is increasingly becoming a political liability, giving Republicans a fresh opportunity to question his administration's competence and complicating the debate over the nation's fractured immigration laws.

Still, Obama is resisting calls to visit the border during his two-day fundraising trip to Texas, where he arrives late Wednesday afternoon....

Even immigrant advocates, who say Obama's response has been too focused on enhancing enforcement and deportation, said he would benefit from witnessing the influx first hand.

"It would have been nice for him to see and speak to some of these children and some of these mothers with children who've come -- to find out first hand why they're coming," Michelle Brane, director of migrant rights and justice at the Women's Refugee Commission, said Wednesday. "I think that would make a difference in how he sees this problem."

Read the AP story that appeared in the Washington Post.

The horrors driving thousands of Central American kids to take the dangerous journey to the U.S.

Before the 15-year old girl said goodbye to her uncle on that early April night, before she crossed El Salvador's border, before she negotiated the serpentine and danger-studded road north, she thought of plastic bags. And whether she, like the others, would end up inside one.

A local gang member had said he "liked" her, she told the United Nations refugee agency. And in a country like El Salvador, where gangs recruit in schools, target girls for "sexualized killings" and have pushed the state to the brink of collapse, getting "liked" by a gang member is the last thing anyone would want. "The guy who liked me was going to do me harm," she said. "In El Salvador, they take young girls, rape them and throw them in plastic bags." Her uncle took her aside and told her she must flee — so she did....

"In El Salvador, there is a wrong — it is being young," a young boy told the Women's Refugee Commission. "It is better to be old."

Read the full article in the Washington Post.

A Humanitarian Crisis, Not a Political One

Jennifer Podkul, senior program officer, migrant rights & justice program, was one of six experts invited to participate in a New York Times "Room for Debate" on "How to Stop the Surge of Migrant Children." Read Jennifer's contribution. Read the entire debate here.

Voices: Why deportations won't stop the border deluge

REYNOSA, Mexico – It took Brian Soler Redondo seven months to get from his home in Comayagua, Honduras, to this city on Mexico's northern border with Texas.

Along the way, the 14-year-old hitchhiked, walked for miles, dodged thunderstorms, jumped from a moving train to avoid roving gangs, had his money stolen by unscrupulous border police, witnessed a pregnant woman thrown under a train and killed, begged for bus fare, and felt more hunger, thirst, fear and fatigue than most people feel in a lifetime.... 

Sending so many back has done little to discourage the steady flow of migrants, many of whom are fleeing rampant violence or economic despair in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The threat of being deported from the U.S. pales in comparison to a looming gang kidnapping or the prospect of another day without dinner.

"You can close the door of a burning house, but people are just going to jump out the window," says Michelle Brané of the Women's Refugee Commission. 

Read the article in USA Today.

Obama Border “Surge” Restarts Family Detention, Fast-Tracks Deportation Of Children

President Barack Obama on Monday made two major immigration-related announcements that rights groups and immigration advocates say are not only incongruous but could violate multiple international rights obligations….

On the other hand, the president formally pushed lawmakers to grant him some $2 billion in additional border-enforcement funding, as well as new authorities to significantly speed up a deportation process that has already reached record levels under the Obama administration.

“The fact is there is no way to humanely detain families,” Michelle Brane, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, a rights group, told journalists on Monday.

“Further, using detention as a deterrent is a violation of international law and has never been shown to work … International law also doesn’t allow [victims of violence] to be sent back to their tormenter. Yet the U.S. government is not mentioning that these children need protection.”

Read the article on MintPress News.

Children at the Border Raise Question of Who Is a Refugee

Many of the children and families arriving at America's southern doorstep, overwhelming shelters and navigating an already clogged system, are fleeing unrelenting violence or economic destitution.

But does that make them refugees? Not in the eyes of the law....

"The overall focus on stemming the flow and reinforcing borders along with this very strong message to children and families that they should not come because they will sent back really raises concerns of violations of international law," said Michelle Brané, director of the migrant and justice program at the Women's Refugee Comission, a non-profit.

She said one of the basic tenets of refugee law, solidified after the Holocaust with the Refugee Convention, forbids rendering of a true victim of persecution or torture to their persecutor.

Read the article on NBC News and watch the second video clip.

Refugee Nonprofit Says Influx Of Minors Has "Nothing To Do With Immigration Reform"

The thousands of unaccompanied children from arriving at the Texas-Mexico border have become the latest pawns in the political battle over immigration reform, that's according to the nonprofit Women's Refugee Commission, who says this not a problem unique to United States.

Michelle Brané, director of the migrant rights and justice program with the Women's Refugee Commission, said everyone on Capitol Hill and beyond are trying to politicize the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors that are coming to Texas from Central America....

"It's a refugee-like situation," Brané said. "People are fleeing a situation in Central America, and so we can't just deal with the problem here, we need to deal with this regionally. We need to look at what's happening in those three countries, why is it happening just in those three countries."

Read the full article from Texas Public Radio.

Hundreds Of Millions In U.S. Aid, More Detention Centers Planned To Deal With Border Crisis

Under fire over a growing tide of Central Americans, including thousands of unaccompanied minors arriving across the U.S.-Mexico border, the Obama administration plans to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the nations from which the migrants are coming, and to create more detention space to hold them.

...

Michelle Brané, Director of Migrant Rights & Justice Programs at Women's Refugee Commission, urged the administration in a statement to the press to consider alternatives to detaining families with children....

"When we visited the Hutto facility in 2006, DHS claimed the facility was specially equipped to meet families needs and would put an end to the separation of families in detention," she said. "Instead, we found babies in prison jumpsuits, families sleeping in cells with open-air toilets, highly restricted movement and only one hour of recreation per day. Detainees were subject to alarming disciplinary tactics, including threats to separate children from their parents. After public outrage and lawsuits, that facility was closed for families."

Read the full article on Fox News Latino.

DHS to Hold More Immigrants, Biden Meets Leaders on Border Crisis

The Obama administration said Friday it would detain families arriving at the border and announced investments in Central America to stem the flood of unaccompanied children also coming here. Meanwhile Republicans demanded the president deploy the National Guard.

...Michelle Brané's organization, the Women's Refugee Commission, helped expose problems at Hutto. Babies were kept in prison jumpsuits, families had to use open-air toilets and children were disciplined with threats of being taken from their parents at the for-profit, privately-run facility, she said.

"Plain and simple, family detention is an awful and damaging process. It profoundly and irreversibly affects the physical and mental health of children and breaks down parent-child relationships," Brané said in a statement.

Read the NBC News article

Fear Is Driving Young Men Across the U.S. Border

The day of his first kidnapping, Wander's life cleaved in two. Before it, he was a middle-class kid living in a humid, mountain-flanked Honduran city. Growing up, he had a live-in maid, attended private school, and enjoyed a modest but steady flow of new clothing and electronics. After graduating high school, he drove a bus for his mother's transportation company. Then, on the morning of June 12, 2009, when he was 19, a quartet of masked men approached his black Toyota Corolla, ordered him to exit, and shoved a pistol against his skull.

...

In 2012, the Women's Refugee Commission, a research and advocacy group, conducted field studies to examine the causes of this unprecedented influx. Of the 151 young immigrants interviewed, nearly 80 percent said that violence was the main reason young people were fleeing their countries.

"It's push factors, not pull factors," said Jennifer Podkul, a senior program officer at the Women's Refugee Commission. "These countries are losing a generation."

Read the full article in The Atlantic.