Says kids deserve basic legal rights
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The tens of thousands of children who are streaming across the southern border of the U.S. from countries in Central America should be treated with compassion — not like criminals, according to one Brooklyn congresswoman.
U.S. Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, who is the daughter an immigrant, urged her colleagues in the House of Representatives to maintain basic legal protections for the children s the nation grapples with what to do about the humanitarian crisis at the border with Mexico. Clarke’s mother, former Councilwoman Una Clarke, was born in the West Indies and emigrated to the U.S. in the 1950s.
More than 50,000 children from Central America are currently being detained by the U.S.
“I believe we have a responsibility to demonstrate compassion toward these children, who are entitled to due process of law in their immigration hearings,” Clarke (D-Central Brooklyn) said in a statement.
The U.S. shouldn’t be so quick to deport the children, according to Clarke.
“Many of these young women and young men might be eligible for asylum, available to anyone who has suffered persecution or has a legitimate fear of persecution,” she said. “These children should have access to legal advice and an opportunity present their claims for asylum.”
Clarke pointed out that most of the children coming into the U.S. via Mexico hail from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where hundreds of youngsters have been killed as a result of gang violence in recent years.
Under a federal law that was enacted in 2008 to prevent human trafficking, children who arrive at the border of the U.S. alone (from countries other than those the U.S. shares borders with, Canada or Mexico) are permitted to have a hearing with immigration officials and apply for asylum.
A bill being pushed by House Republicans would require rapid screenings by Customs and Border Control agents and expedited immigration court proceedings without legal representation, Clarke said.
The Washington Post reported on Friday House Republicans were close to finalizing a bill that would change the 2008 anti-trafficking law to require the Obama administration to treat the young immigrants from Central America the same way young immigrants from Mexico are treated. That would mean almost immediate deportation for the children, a move Democrats in the House oppose, the Post reported.
Clarke, a member of the House Committee on Small Business, Ethics and Homeland Security, said she likes a proposal by President Barack Obama to increase security at the border.
“I am prepared to support President Obama’s plan to improve security at the border and to expedite the processing of the unaccompanied children before immigration judges, with the protections that our Constitution requires,” she stated.
According to a New York Times report on Thursday, Obama told Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) at a meeting that he did not agree with the GOP’s idea to change the 2008 law to allow authorities to quickly deport unaccompanied children and that he was considering taking executive action on the immigration crisis during the congressional recess.
Members of Congress traditionally go back to their districts during the month of August.