REP. GUTIERREZ ON WHITE HOUSE REQUEST FOR $2 BILLION AND POLICY CHANGES TO ADDRESS BORDER CRISIS
“While I support the President asking for more money, I am deeply concerned that the legal rights of children fleeing violence that are part of our current law may get curtailed.” -- Rep. Gutiérrez
Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) issued the following statement in reaction to the letter sent by President Obama to Congress requesting an additional $2 billion and certain policy changes to address the crisis of children fleeing violence in Central America. Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez represents the Fourth District of Illinois, is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, and is the Chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
“The priority for the White House is to send a strong deterrence message to Central America by sending people back and while I agree with the goal, I fear this will short-circuit justice and not protecting vulnerable children. There is no doubt that some of those returned to Central America will face violence, rape and death and some will attempt the trip again anyway.
“We should process those who arrive at our border as quickly as possible. The White House has requested a surge of immigration judges, adjudication officers and lawyers to accelerate the legal processing and evaluation of individual cases, but we must simultaneously ensure that the proper legal processes are followed.
“I support the increased budget request, but we should go beyond it. The appointment of legal counsel to unaccompanied children would be extremely helpful not only in protecting their rights but in expediting the process of their claims, if any. That is why I joined my colleagues in introducing legislation (H.R. 4936, The Vulnerable Immigrant Voice Act of 2014 or VIVA see: http://1.usa.gov/1l4DhtL) to appoint counsel for unaccompanied children in immigration courts. Ensuring counsel for unaccompanied children will actually speed up their processing while protecting basic due process rights.
“We also need long-range engagement with our neighbors in Latin America to assist them in creating the conditions that will keep their children at home. This includes law-enforcement, gang-prevention, and violence reduction, but also economic development, developing civil society, and helping move our entire continent towards the modern age.
“While I support the President asking for more money, I am deeply concerned that the legal rights of children fleeing violence that are part of our current law may get curtailed. We should treat this refugee crisis the way we address refugee crises elsewhere in the world by setting up quick but fair mechanisms to evaluate the refugee status of migrants – especially children -- fleeing violence in Central America. We should look into whether this process could occur in the sending countries, in this country, or in another country along the way. The goal is to reduce the number of children and individuals -- fueled by extreme violence, poverty, and false rumors about the welcome they will receive in the U.S.—from taking the dangerous journey to the U.S. in the first place.
“There is also an important lesson in this: If you fail to institute a safe, legal and orderly immigration process for several decades, chaos ensues. The same Republicans who have blocked immigration reform and are fanning rumors with claims that President Obama is not enforcing immigration laws and that the U.S. has “open borders” are now saying we need to change our border policies to deport children and families without delay. You cannot have it both ways. If we had a legal and orderly process for immigration in place, we would have better control over the current situation.”
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