City Officials Call for Humane Treatment of Migrant Children


Several Los Angeles City Council members today called on the federal government to treat children who crossed across the Mexican border in recent years to flee violence in their countries humanely and to consider them refugees.

A resolution urging the federal government to give these children access to a fair immigration hearing and the opportunity to be designated as refugees is expected to be introduced Friday by council members Gil Cedillo, Mitch O’Farrell, Nury Martinez and Curren Price and voted on next week.

The council members joined residents and members of the Central American community in MacArthur Park today to discuss the resolution, which if approved, would become the city’s official stance on the issue.

The resolution would also denounce efforts to weaken or repeal the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which gives the children access to legal representation, the chance to have an immigration hearing and would allow for them to be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services, which is the agency charged with finding a home for the children or
reuniting them with their family.

Cedillo said the United States has a “humanitarian duty to protect these children and make sure they are not placed in harm’s way again.”

“When we take politics out of the equation, we are dealing with an issue that involves child refugees” escaping “ that are fleeing violence and abuse in their own countries,” he said.

A United Nations commission interviewed hundreds of unaccompanied minors and found they came to the United States to escape extreme poverty, the effects of unemployment, traumatic situations and insufficient protection from gang crime, according to the council members.

Martinez said “our responsibilities to all children extend beyond borders and politics.”

“My heart goes out to those parents that were forced to send their children alone because keeping them meant a far worse fate,” she said. “Our nation succeeds, in part, because of our compassion.”

Councilman Curren Price said he wants the children who have “fled terrible conditions at home” to know that Los Angeles “is a safe place where they will be treated with compassion.”

Many of the unaccompanied minors were traveling to join relatives in the United States, many of whom live in the Los Angeles area, home to communities of Salvadoran, Honduran and Guatemalan expatriates.

O’Farrell called on the federal government needs to “lead by example and provide immediate support for these innocent lives.”

Department of Health and Human Services has asked the city to coordinate with community groups that can help the minors reunited with family members.

Carlos Vaquerano, executive director of the Salvadorean Legal Aid Fund, one of the organizations involved in the effort, voiced his support of the resolution, saying that “the principles of social justice recognize that health care, education and the respect for legal rights are basic human rights for children, regardless of their legal status, especially when they are escaping violence and hunger.”

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