Hawkins: NY Should Provide Sanctuary to Refugee Children
Yesterday Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, held a news conference where he supported the efforts by Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Bishop Robert Cunningham of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse to provide accommodations for child refugees from violence in Central America. This evening he will be participating in a community meeting in Syracuse in support of the refugees.
“It is sad to see some quarters pit taking care of our children against taking care of these refugee children. We ought to take care of all children,” Hawkins said.
“Children are fleeing the end results of U.S. intervention in Central America, from neoliberal economic policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement to the Drug War to military spending. The poverty and violence they are escaping is a glimpse at our future if we continue to follow the economic policies promoted by Cuomo and Astorino,” Hawkins noted in urging New York to provide sanctuary to these victims.
Hawkins has repeatedly called for New York to invest in a variety of programs to lift children out of poverty here in NY, including universal child care and affordable housing subsidies. Upstate cities such as Syracuse, Rochester and Schenectady already have official poverty rates for children exceeding 50%.
There has been a significant increase of refugees from Central America seeking asylum in the U.S., many of them unaccompanied children. So far this year the Border Patrol says that over 50,000 such children have crossed the border with Mexico, double the number for all of 2013 and five times that of 2009.
Those grabbed by the authorities have been subjected to widespread and systematic brutal treatment, according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and immigrant rights organizations. The ACLU describes children and teenagers being shackled in stress positions, kicked, yelled at, forced to drink from toilets, and denied food and medical care. These youngsters have been held by the government for prolonged periods in crowded, unsafe and freezing cold detention cells.
“The U.S. has a historical debt to these children for its role in violently undermining democratically elected governments that took actions to meet the needs of poor and working class people. The 2009 Honduran coup by U.S. trained generals came on the heals of an attempt to raise that country's minimum wage – today, it's one of the most dangerous countries on the planet," said Hawkins.
"Around the world, people want the same basic things – to earn a decent living, send their children to school and live free from violence. Our campaign for economic human rights in New York shares the aspirations of all those working to secure the needs of the poor and working class people. The human spirit knows no borders.”
Refugees from Central America – mainly Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador – fall into a legal category different from immigrants from Mexico. Refugees from Mexico are deported immediately back under the law. But refugees from countries not bordering the U.S. fall under a different law, which stipulates that they must be processed in a court to determine if they will be given asylum. The refugees are not allowed any legal representation in these courts. So a child of five or ten can be brought into a court to defend herself with no understanding what is going on.