FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ken Inouye, Chair, 949-586-6640
Becky Esparza, Vice-Chair, 714-893-9834
Rusty Kennedy, CEO, 714-480-6585
Concerns about the increasing number of Central American children detained and held by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) came to a head this year with raucous demonstrations in Murrieta where ICE buses bringing these children from the border were blocked by demonstrators. ICE has for some time contracted with Orange County and other non-profit organizations to provide shelter for some of these unaccompanied minors seized at the border.
Commission Concerned About These Children
OC Human Relations Commission is concerned about these children being held for long periods of time in inadequate ICE detention facilities, and also believes that their appeals for asylum need to be carefully reviewed with the help of counsel considering the violence they may be fleeing.
The number of minors from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador grew from 20,785 in 2013 to 34,528 in 2014 according to the Pew Research Center. Orange County is one of the top destinations for immigrants to the United States.
Central American Violence May Be Driving Families to Seek Asylum
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime the homicide rate in 2012 in Honduras was 90.4 per 100,000 and El Salvador’s was 44.5 per 100,000, while that in the United States was 4.7 per 100,000.
No Easy Answer to Challenges of Immigration
The challenges to the United States Immigration courts are extreme with inadequate resources to move the cases of these minors faster. For example, on a day in August children were being scheduled for a hearing “as late as March” according to an article in the OC Register 8.10.14 written by staff writer, David Montero.
According to the US Department of Justice only 9,933 people (about 53% of applicants) were granted asylum in the US in 2013. And in Los Angeles the approval rate was even lower at 35%.
Immigration detention facilities are overwhelmed which is what was driving the movement of minors to Murrieta and other detention facilities across the country when demonstrations blocked their buses earlier this year.
Commission Calls for a Humane Treatment and Protection of These Children
The OC Human Relations Commission does not have a comprehensive solution to the complex challenges facing the Immigration System in the United States. The Commission does have compassion for immigrants and especially these Central American children arriving at our border.
Our community has risen to the challenge of helping immigrants fleeing their home countries such as the Cuban refugees who met the generosity of our faith-based and civic organizations, the multiple waves of Vietnamese and other South East Asian refugees who we welcomed with private and public support, and refugees from all over the world.
The Commission calls for the community to think about the safety and education of these children. We call for a humane response to the plight of Central American children crossing into our country.
The Commission urges people to recognize the essential value and humanity in protecting children from the violence and despair that they may face now more than ever in the Central American countries they are fleeing.