Just Neighbors Condemns New Border Policies

In the last several months, the Trump Administration has issued new policies, including “zero tolerance” and redefining what qualifies for asylum. The first is not a change in law, but a change in the enforcement of the law with the intent to use the separation of children from their families as a tactic to discourage new arrivals (this was considered for use under the Obama administration but not implemented because of the impact on children).

The second is an attempt to limit LEGAL immigration.  The following excerpts from our national organization National Justice For Our Neighbors (NJFON), explain the impact of this change.

“The primary targets of Mr. Sessions’ announcement appear to be victims of domestic and gang violence from the Northern Triangle countries of Central America—El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—who seek safety and asylum here in the United States.”

“That is egregious. But as NJFON—and nine other faith-based organizations—warned in an amicus brief (friend of the court), the attorney general’s ruling could also have dire and far-reaching consequences for those fleeing religious and other types of persecution around the world.

Domestic violence victims from El Salvador, Guatemala, and other countries, are often unable to escape their abusers and unable to receive help from any quarter, including the police, the courts, or the community.”

“Understand that these women are refugees who have been savagely beaten and raped by their domestic partners,” says Shane Ellison, legal director for Immigrant Legal Center, (our JFON site in Nebraska), who represented NJFON in filing the amicus brief.

“These abusers, in some instances, can even commit femicide with impunity, knowing they won’t be prosecuted in their country.”

Their victims know this, too. They know that if they have any chance of escape, they must flee from both dangerous partners and from a society that permits, and even condones, the violence perpetuated against them.

The Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala consistently rank as three of the most violent countries in the world.

The M-13 and 18th Street gangs, the region’s largest gangs, both formed here in the United States, have between 54,000 – 85,000 members in total. These are powerful transnational crime organizations that effectively take over large swaths of cities, towns and rural areas, where they can extort, kidnap, rape, torture and murder without significant interference from government forces.

Police corruption is rampant and law enforcement successes few and far between. There are areas in this region where as many as 95 percent of crimes go unpunished.

There are governments around the world that officially and actively persecute groups of people based on religion, race, ethnicity, political ideology, sexual orientation, or other factors.

There are also mobs, terrorists, gangs, and other non-governmental actors who persecute and target vulnerable groups of people. When their government is unable or unwilling to protect members of these groups, then these members have a right to apply for asylum here in the United States.

“Any civil war,” Ellison explains, “could involve non-state actors committing atrocities. There will be targeted killings based on ethnic lines, political parties, and religion.”

“ISIS,” he reminds us gravely, “is not a state actor. ISIS terrorists are acting contrary to the laws of both the Iraqi and Syrian governments.”

They make great sacrifices. They take enormous risks. They put themselves—and their children—in harm’s way. Asylum seekers do not flee to the United States because it’s easy.

They come because they want—and they want their families—to live.”

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The mission of Just Neighbors is to provide immigration legal services to low-income immigrants and refugees in Virginia, especially those who are most vulnerable. We also seek to foster enriching experiences that enhance awareness and mutual understanding among our clients, volunteers, staff and community.

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