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Love and Loathing in North Texas Amid Child Refugee Crisis

The ultimate outcome of the Obama administration's request for more than $3.7 billion in emergency supplemental funding to address a recent influx of tens of thousands of unaccompanied, undocumented Central American refugee children crossing the southern border daily to escape increased violence and poverty rests with Congress, but it's clear action is necessary....

"We're concerned that the administration has emphasized the use of detention as a deterrent, and [President Obama] has made very clear the intention to open new family detention facilities with the intention and objective of deterring them from coming to the United States," [Michelle] Brané [Women's Refugee Commission] said. "While there are many aspects of the president's request that are indeed necessary, the emphasis on detention as a deterrent is very problematic."

Brané, along with other refugee policy experts on the call, pointed to alternatives to detention, such as case management and community support for refugees.

Read the article on Truthout.

Obama aides were warned of brewing border crisis

Nearly a year before President Obama declared a humanitarian crisis on the border, a team of experts arrived at the Fort Brown patrol station in Brownsville, Tex., and discovered a makeshift transportation depot for a deluge of foreign children.

...“I don’t think they ignored this on purpose, but they didn’t know what to do,” said Michelle Brané, director of migrant rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission, which published a 2012 report highlighting the influx of minors. “For whatever reason, there was hesi­ta­tion to address the root causes. 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.”

Read the Washington Post article.

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

As Congress and the Administration consider proposals to eviscerate the heretofore obscure (now demonized) Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA), it makes sense to review the case for change and to query whether the proposed cure might not do more harm than good. 

...A series of recent reports have identified multiple causes, 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. These reports -- from credible sources like the United Nations High Commissioner for RefugeesWashington Office for Latin AmericaU.S. Conference of Catholic BishopsKids in Need of DefenseWomen's Refugee Commission, and the American Immigration Council -- are based on interviews with hundreds of detained and deported children (and family members), analysis of their legal claims, and fact-finding missions. 

Read the article by Donald Kerwin, Executive Director, Center for Migration Studies, on Huffington Post.

The real failures of immigration policy

In the eyes of Texas Gov. Rick Perry and others, the crisis on our southern border demonstrates the failure of our immigration policy. They are correct, though not in the way they think. The failure in our immigration policy comes from the persistent belief that we can make rivers run uphill.

The sudden flood of underage migrants, sometimes accompanied by their mothers, didn't happen because border security has been neglected. This administration, like its predecessor, has made a fetish of toughness against anyone trying to get in without authorization. It's worked, but only up to a point -- and often with perverse results. This influx happens to be one of those unanticipated effects.

Read the full article in the Washington Examiner.

Michelle Brané on Immigrant Children

Michelle Brané, director, Migrant Rights & Justice Program, speaks on ComCast Newsmakers about the unaccompanied children fleeing violence in Central America. 

Watch here.

Why Are Immigration Detention Facilities So Cold?

In early 2013, three undocumented immigrants sued US Customs and Border Protection for abuse they suffered while spending days in custody. The three women claimed that CBP agents refused to give them soap or toothbrushes; sometimes, agents refused to feed them more than once a day. But the women's biggest grievance was the unrelenting cold. ...
"You have agents that are wearing their boots, gear, and bulletproof vests and running around in the desert," says Jennifer Podkul of the Women's Refugee Commission. "A comfortable temperature for them is different for a person who's been in the desert for several days, is wearing a tank top, and is very, very sweaty—and then sits there for two or three days...You wouldn't believe the hours I've spent with CBP talking about the correct temperature."

Read the article in Mother Jones.

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

What will stem the flood of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border?...

...Bloomberg News asked a range of immigration analysts, attorneys and advocates about how they would handle the wave of mostly Central American youth that began in 2011.

Jennifer Podkul, senior program officer at the Women's Refugee Commission in Washington:

Ensure all children have a meaningful opportunity to have their cases heard by a trained decision maker. 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, who just apprehended that child in the desert. It should be done by a trained professional who has experience working with children and conducting trauma informed interviews.

It is imperative all children be represented by counsel to ensure they understand their rights and to help navigate our complex immigration-court process. Moreover, having an attorney is a resource saver -- children's cases conclude much faster when represented.

Read the full debate 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. Tune in at the 2:30 mark to hear why they're coming. Listen at 6:30 to hear the economics behind it.

Watch the interview on MSNBC.

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

CRISTIAN OMAR REYES, an 11-year-old sixth grader in the neighborhood of Nueva Suyapa, on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, tells me he has to get out of Honduras soon — "no matter what."

In March, his father was robbed and murdered by gangs while working as a security guard protecting a pastry truck. His mother used the life insurance payout to hire a smuggler to take her to Florida. She promised to send for him quickly, but she has not.

Three people he knows were murdered this year.... A girl his age resisted being robbed of $5. She was clubbed over the head and dragged off by two men who cut a hole in her throat, stuffed her panties in it, and left her body in a ravine across the street from Cristian's house.

"I'm going this year," he tells me.

Michelle Brané, director, Migrant Rights & Justice Program, is quoted in this New York Times opinion piece by Sonia Nazario about the surge of unaccompanied children fleeing violence in Central America and crossing the U.S./Mexico border.

Read the op-ed.


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

Nineteen year-old Cindy Monge is seeing a therapist to deal with her feelings of abandonment.

As a very young child, Monge's parents left her with relatives in Guatemala while they made their way into the United States without documentation.

In 2006, when she was only 11, Monge made the same journey that tens of thousands of unaccompanied children undertake today – she traveled alone from Guatemala to the U.S.-Mexico border, she toldFox News Latino in Spanish, with several human smugglers who split the $10,000 fee paid by her parents, so she could rejoin them....

She believes that children like her make the journey for the same two reasons that she did: to reunite with their families and to run away from life-or-death situations...

Stressing that most of the migrant kids won't qualify for humanitarian relief, White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said on Monday that, "They will not have the legal basis for remaining in this country and will be returned."

According to many humanitarian and immigrant assistance groups, however, the question isn't nearly that cut-and-dried.

"Potentially [these children] have legal options," said Michelle Brane, Director of Migrant Rights and Justice Programs at the Women´s Refugee Commission. "Unless they expect legal procedures [to be applied] in a way not to give people access to that protection, and that´s why we are concerned [about] the way that they are framing this."

Read the story, which appeared on Fox News Latino.