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“Vulnerable refugees” must be protected

“Vulnerable refugees” must be protected

Two Episcopalians submitted testimony today on behalf of The Episcopal Church entitled “Unaccompanied Alien Children and Refugee Populations” in a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.

The hearing was entitled “An Administration Made Disaster: The South Texas Border Surge of Unaccompanied Alien Minors.”

The complete testimony of Alexander D. Baumgarten, Director of Government Relations, and Katie Conway, Immigration and Refugee Policy Analyst for The Episcopal Church, is found on The Episcopal Church website. Here are some excerpts:

Today we express our concern for the violence in Central America pushing tens of thousands of vulnerable immigrant children to flee, and recommend that Congress and the Administration continue to provide appropriate, child-centered care for these children, while maintaining access to protection and services for all refugee populations. The Episcopal Church has been engaged in the work of providing humanitarian aid abroad and refugee resettlement domestically since the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief was established in 1940, and we continue those services today….

Within these communities of diminishing protections and escalating violence, children, single women, and women heads of household with young children are the most vulnerable and are therefore prime targets for violence and exploitation by the organized crime syndicate, gangs, and security forces. The widely acknowledged tactic of targeting young children for gang recruitment, and the lack of citizen security for civilians to seek protection or resolution when persecution or violence occurs, has triggered a regional humanitarian crisis years in the making, and has driven tens of thousands of children from their homes. Over the past three years, humanitarian aid, human rights organizations, churches, refugee resettlement agencies, and children’s rights advocates have watched as more and more children have been forced from their homes, exchanging the known dangers at home for the unknown dangers of a journey to the United States, in a desperate search for peace and protection….

We must address overseas crises and crises in our hemisphere with the same dedication to protection and commitment to keeping borders open to vulnerable refugees, or risk damaging our ability to react effectively and humanely to other emerging refugee situations and protracted refugee situations where partners like Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon are hosting millions of Syrian refugees.

As we do abroad, the United States must lead by example regionally, providing child-centric approaches to this crisis and demonstrating effective burden sharing with other nations in the region able to assist such as Panama, Costa Rica, and Belize. Like our responses to humanitarian emergencies around the world, however, responding to this crisis should in no way diminish our capability to address the needs of refugees elsewhere, and we must uphold our commitment to domestic refugee resettlement.

We support the Administration’s interagency response to the international scope and unique protection needs of this humanitarian migration crisis, and look to Congress to provide the federal government with the necessary resources to implement child-centered solutions that address the immediate needs of unaccompanied immigrant youth and the root causes that force vulnerable children to undertake this perilous journey alone. The Episcopal Church stands ready as a partner in service to vulnerable refugees, and is prepared to welcome the newest generation of refugees to a life a of peace and safety in our communities.


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