Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Action Alert: Congress, Protect the Human Rights of Migrants!

It’s almost the end of July and the season of Congressional appropriations is in full swing! By September 30, Congress must pass 12 different appropriations bills to fund the U.S. government for fiscal year 2016.[1] One of these appropriations packages, the State Department and Foreign Operations bill, includes various forms of aid to other countries.

The House version of the bill (H.R. 2772) conditions humanitarian aid funding for Central American countries on their commitment to improving border security and interdicting migrants, particularly unaccompanied minors, trying to reach México and eventually the United States. [2]

The Northern Triangle of Central America-- Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras-- have erupted into levels of incomprehensible violence due to the rising control of gangs and lack of economic opportunity. The mass exodus of Central American children and families has been the result.[3] These conditional provisions in the bill seek to strategically keep Central Americans from ever reaching our southern border. The United States has already begun this process to externalize our southern border. Since last year, the U.S. has funded, armed, and trained Mexican, Honduran, and Guatemalan law enforcement to stop migration from Central America, without regard to the well-being or human rights of migrants.[4] The provisions in the House bill would amplify these efforts to keep Central Americans from exercising their internationally guaranteed right to flee trafficking, persecution, and violence as asylum seekers [5] to the United States and other countries.

We must not continue down this path. Instead, we should be investing in protection and post-repatriation services for migrants, along with addressing the root causes of migration—violence and poverty.

The Senate version of the bill (S. 1725) does not include these damaging conditions. It does, however, include positive provisions to condition assistance to Northern Triangle countries on their efforts to combat corruption and ensure transparency, protect human rights, implement policies and reforms to address root causes of poverty and violence, and reform the police and the role of military forces in policing, among many.[6]

When the House and Senate go to conference to reconcile their two bills, we want provisions like those in the Senate bill to remain and border security provisions like those in the House to be eliminated.

What does the PC(USA) say about asylum-seekers and refugees?

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has affirmed many times (1990, 1994, 1999, and 2014) [7] the need for U.S. immigration policy to protect the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers, in accordance with the Gospel mandate to care for the most vulnerable.

In 1990, the 202nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) resolved that any immigration-related policy must “uphold international standards and accords regarding protection to refugees and persons in refugee-like situations…” and “address the U.S. economic, political, and military policies that may contribute to conditions compelling human displacement and migration.”[8]

Primarily Central American migrants board a Mexican freight train known as
 'La Bestia," "The Beast" to reach the U.S. border.
Source: www.macleans.ca 

[1] The past few years, Congress has not passed all twelve bills before the deadline, so all twelve bills have been wrapped into one “omnibus bill.” Read more here: https://www.nationalpriorities.org/budget-basics/federal-budget-101/federal-budget-process/
[7] 35.143. Pp 520; 30.141. Pp. 243; “Transformation of Churches and Society through Encounter with New Neighbors.” PC(USA) Statement. Pp. 353-355; Commissioner Resolution. On the Global Crisis for LGBT People and Their Families: A Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Response. 09-20. http://pc-biz.org/PC-Biz.WebApp_deploy/(S(ips21ra3w0zttk2dvlduyrgf))/Explorer.aspx?id=5073
[8] 35.143. Pp. 520.