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Advocates Analyze Trump Administration’s Border Security Memo and Sec. Kelly’s and Sec. Tillerson’s trip to Mexico and Central America

Washington, DC — Today, refugee and immigrant advocates gathered on a press call to discuss the Trump Administration’s Border Security Memo and Secretary Kelly’s and Secretary Tillerson’s trip to Mexico and Central America.

Advocates expressed concern over the Trump Administration’s announcement of increasingly stringent border security policies that will undoubtedly deter Central American refugees from seeking protection as they flee violence and persecution.

A recording of today’s event is available here

Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA) said, “I would first like to touch on the topic regarding the work we have been doing in Northern Triangle. I have to bring attention to this because critical that we do not lose track of root causes of the issues there. General Kelly is in Guatemala and I hope he has a chance to meet people like the Attorney General, a champion in helping to address the issue of government corruption. We need to address root causes for why people are fleeing countries. It is truly mean-spirited of the Administration to go after these vulnerable populations. Families are afraid to send children to school, individuals are afraid to go to work. These people help our economy, and pay taxes. We need to help them get out of the shadows and on a path to citizenship.”

Marshall Fitz, Managing Director, Immigration at Emerson Collective (Moderator) said, “Just days before his trip to Mexico and Central America to discuss bilateral agreements, Secretary Kelly released two memos regarding the implementation of President Trump’s ill-advised Executive Orders on immigration and the border. These memos heightened the chaos and uncertainty surrounding the Administration’s aggressive new approach to immigration policy and deepened the fear and panic felt in immigrant communities across the country. These memos, considered in conjunction with the Executive Orders, and the pending revised travel ban on Muslims and refugees raise fundamental questions about the United States’ commitment to core values and our identity as a welcoming and open nation.”

Leah Chavla, Program Officer in the Migrant Rights and Justice Program said, “Returning some persons to Mexico pending a deportation proceeding in the U.S., as provided by the border security memo, will severely hinder access to protection, access to counsel, and due process guarantees for those persons while leaving them vulnerable to criminal and trafficking groups. It will also have repercussions on our compliance with international law and our relationship with Mexico, in addition to empowering organized crime groups rather than protecting us from them. Additionally, the memo strips critical protections from unaccompanied children who arrive to our borders alone yet later are reunited with a parent. The protections in our laws were enacted for a reason – to protect children from traffickers and to provide them with additional safeguards in an immigration system that was never designed to deal with children. By stripping these protections, we are backtracking on American values to put children first and may be quickly returning children to the very dangers they fled in the first place. Further, the criminal prosecution of parents who facilitate the smuggling of their child is shameful, counterproductive, and misses the point. Instead of tackling the root causes of violence and persecution in their home countries, the administration would punish parents who are faced with a terrible choice and desperately want to protect their children from the dangers they face.”

Vicki B. Gaubeca, Director, ACLU Regional Center for Border Rights and Co-chair, Southern Border Communities Coalition, said, “Our border communities are both economically and culturally vibrant, and they help to fuel our nation’s economy and rich character. Nonetheless, Trump and his Administration do not employ the facts about our economically diverse and hardworking communities — they use rhetoric to create an environment of fear that has militarized our borders. The dramatic increase of border patrol agents has not been accompanied by an increase in oversight or transparency, resulting in impunity and a culture of mistrust between the agents and the communities. These new memos further contribute to the problem by showing that the Trump Administration is willing to trample on due process rights, human decency, and even revoke protections for children. We are not a country best ruled by fear, confusion, and cruelty, and we will fight back against these un-American policies.”

Chris Rickerd, Policy Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union said, “I’m just back from South Texas which is currently a hotbed of enforcement and militarization that makes residents feel occupied. This area is also fertile ground for political visits: Speaker Ryan and Chairman McCaul are visiting today. While representatives from the region itself have been holding open meetings to listen directly to border voices, Ryan and McCaul are not engaging with people who live and work there. If they did, they'd hear strong opposition to further wasteful spending, including the hated border wall, and countless stories of abusive conduct by Border Patrol agents. The Trump-Kelly plan to hire 5,000 more agents and 10,000 more ICE personnel would repeat past recruitment mistakes and worsen CBP’s lack of accountability that is still unaddressed by common-sense reforms like body cameras. Border residents' rights are not second-class, yet they have frequently been racially profiled, beaten up, or killed. The ACLU stands with border communities resisting the Trump-Kelly crackdown and its agenda of mass detention and deportation.”


For more information contact: Michelle Brané, MichelleB@wrcommission.orgTessa Wiseman, tessa@newpartners.com

Also see WRC’s 10 Things to Know About How Trump’s Executive Order Will Harm Women and Children Seeking Protection here