Senators urge President Obama to allow more Syrian refugees to resettle in the U.S.

(Washington, D.C.) May 21, 2015 — U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) today led a group of fourteen senators in calling on President Barack Obama to significantly increase the number of Syrian refugees allowed to resettle in the United States. The Syrian conflict has led to the world’s worst ongoing humanitarian crisis and the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

“Our nation’s founders came to our shores to escape religious persecution and the United States has a long tradition of providing safe haven to refugees,” the senators wrote. “The United States traditionally accepts at least 50 percent of resettlement cases from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). However, we have accepted only approximately 700 refugees since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, an unacceptably low number. While the United States is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees, we must also dramatically increase the number of Syrian refugees that we accept for resettlement.”

Full text of the senators’ letter follows:  Read the rest of this entry »

Catholic Leader Decries Opening of Family Detention Center in Texas

(Washington, D.C.) — Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, decried the opening of a 2,400-bed detention center in Dilley, Texas, constructed to house, among others, families fleeing persecution in Central America.

The detention center, operated by a private, for-profit group, was inaugurated December 15.

“It is inhumane to house young mothers with children in restrictive detention facilities, as if they are criminals,” said Bishop Elizondo December 16.

“Already traumatized from their journey, these families are very vulnerable and need care and support, not further emotional and psychological harm.” Studies have shown that detention has a harmful psychological impact on children.

Bishop Elizondo added that the Obama administration’s pursuit of a deterrence policy– including detention and interdiction– against children and families fleeing violence undermines basic human rights.

“Many of these families are fleeing persecution and should be afforded the full benefit of domestic and international law,” Bishop Elizondo said. “As we saw in the case of Artesia, detention denies mothers and children with valid legal claims meaningful access to due process, including legal representation.”

A temporary detention facility in Artesia, New Mexico, housing families was recently closed down, in part, because of strong opposition to due process violations and conditions there, especially for children. The average age of children detained in Artesia was six and a half years old.

Bishop Elizondo added that humane alternatives to detention exist, particularly community- based alternatives based on a case management model.

“Past community-based programs have shown that vulnerable groups such as families can be placed in a community setting and still appear at their immigration hearings, provided they are

given the proper support,” Bishop Elizondo said. “The government should explore this humane alternative and not cause further harm to these families, particularly children.”

Central American refugees flee violence

Migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — has risen steadily as violence has increased. Mary Small of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and Shaina Aber of the United States Jesuit Conference explain what is driving people to flee for their lives.

Learn more at jrsusa.org

Youth gang violence has intensified in the last decade, and as drug trafficking routes have shifted to Central America, violence associated with the drug trade has risen as well. Honduras has the highest homicide rate in world; from 2005-2012, murders of women and girls have increased 346% while murders of men and boys are up 292%. In all three countries, rates of impunity are over 90%.

Child advocates, especially from Honduras and El Salvador, report accounts of children and teenagers subject to assaults and intimidation from gangs, and of children being forcibly recruited by gangs who have “join or die” polices. In a survey conducted by UNHCR of 404 Central American children detained at the border in 2013, UNHCR found that 58% of the children might be in need of international protection.

Faith groups urge U.S. to protect child refugees

Read more on our website: http://bit.ly/1lDiUVF

Read more on our website: http://bit.ly/1lDiUVF

Jesuit Conference President Fr. Thomas Smolich S.J., far right, a member of the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA Board of Directors, participated in a discussion July 24 with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, left,  and other Democratic congressional representatives on how the U.S. should respond to the humanitarian situation in Central America. Mary Small, back right, JRS/USA Assistant Director for Policy and Shaina Aber, back left, Policy Director for the National Advocacy Office at the Jesuit Conference, also took part in the meeting.

On the day of the meeting, more than 300 faith-based organizations delivered a letter to President Barack Obama and Members of Congress urging protection, care and legal counsel for the thousands of Central American children who have fled escalating violence, conflict and exploitation in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Aber said the Conference has been working on human rights issues and tracking issues of migration and violence in Central America, particularly in Honduras, for the past three years. They began to notice the migrants arriving at shelters run by the Jesuits in Mexico were getting younger. “They weren’t looking for economic opportunity but for safer lives outside of gang-ridden neighborhoods,” Aber said.

“The rhetoric we’ve been hearing recently from Congress and the administration has been disturbing,” said Aber. “They are talking about cutting down on protections the children are currently due under the law … at a time when we think Congress should be looking at what the driving factors are that are leading kids to have to flee their communities. They should be looking for ways in which we can protect these children in the tradition we have welcomed and protected other refugees in the past.”

The Jesuit Conference and Jesuit Refugee Service were two of the organizations that led the efforts in drafting the letter, which was signed by 40 national faith organizations and 269 regional and local groups from 42 states.

Read more on our website: http://bit.ly/1lDiUVF

Donate to Jesuit Refugee Service when you shop at Amazon

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When you shop at Amazon Smile, Amazon will make a donation to Jesuit Refugee Service/USA in the form of a small percentage of your purchase.

Joint statement by heads of UN humanitarian agencies on Syria

(New York, Geneva, Rome) April 23, 2014 — One year ago, as leaders of UN agencies struggling to deal with the growing human impact of the Syrian crisis, we issued an urgent appeal on behalf of millions of people whose lives and futures hang in the balance: Enough, we said, enough!

That appeal has gone largely unanswered. The war escalates in many areas. The humanitarian situation deteriorates day after day.  And for the civilians remaining in the cities of Aleppo and the Old City of Homs, as well as other parts of the country experiencing heavy fighting, the worst days seem yet to come.
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Safe Haven

Safe Haven

A student gazes at her teacher Wednesday morning in an early childhood education class, part of the Jesuit Refugee Service ‘Safe Haven’ at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. About 120,000 refugees from a dozen countries live in the sprawling camp in northern Kenya. Learn more about the JRS Safe Haven on our website: http://bit.ly/ZrGfkd

(photo by Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)