MIRA Coalition Condemns Killing of Children Deported to Honduran Violence, Demands Due Process and Protection for Children

At least 5, as many as 10, children were killed in Honduras in the last six months following deportation by U.S. government.

August 20, 2014 BOSTON — The MIRA Coalition reacted strongly to reports that at least 5, and as many as 10, of the many children murdered since February in San Pedro Sula, Honduras were killed following recent deportation by the U.S. government. "We mourn with the families of these children and with all those who have lost a family member to deportation" said Eva Millona, Executive Director of the MIRA Coalition. "The current crisis facing Central American families and children is no time to circumvent the requirements of legal due process. When a parent has faced the wrenching choice of whether to send her child on a harrowing journey to possible safety or keep her family intact and risk losing her child to gang violence, our common humanity demands that we take her child's life and safety seriously."

Under U.S. law, persons at risk of being killed, tortured or persecuted if deported may qualify for one of a number of forms of immigration status, some of which are mandatory for those who demonstrate eligibility. However, attorneys and human rights advocates have decried that the U.S. is not observing basic due process protections with regard to children fleeing Central America and is instead fast-tracking their cases in so-called "rocket-dockets," effectively preventing children from asserting their legal rights and showing that they qualify for protection under American law.

The determination of whether someone is a refugee or otherwise qualifies for humanitarian protection is a legal, not political, question. Yet, polling data shows that public opinion also supports compassion and adherence to the law when it comes to addressing the current humanitarian crisis. According to a recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institutenearly 7 in 10 Americans believe children fleeing Central America "should be treated as refugees and allowed to stay in the U.S. if authorities determine it is not safe for them to return to their home countries."

Statistical analyses demonstrate that the crisis of increased child flight from Central America is rooted in heightened violence afflicting the Northern Triangle: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Honduras' per capita homicide rate was 90 murders per 100,000 residents -- the highest in the world -- in 2012, the most recent year for which data was analyzed. Many children in the Northern Triangle have been killed by gang violence from which their governments cannot protect them, while others have faced gang-related sexual violence including rape and forced prostitution.

The news of the killing in Honduras of deported children comes less than two weeks after a massive gathering on August 7 of over a 1000 individuals in Boston for the "Stand Up for All Children" march and rally, endorsed by 98 organziations. Attendees marched to show compassion for all children suffering and fleeing violence and called upon the federal government to ensure that Central American children seeking protection receive due process to ensure meaningful review of their claims for legal protection. At that rally, Nashwa Gewaily, legal fellow with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, noted the hypocrisy of those who argue that the U.S.'s character as a "nation of laws" implies we should not protect Central American refugees: "If [being a nation of laws] is your rallying cry, then you must defend the laws of due process, the laws that ensure a fair hearing, and fair representation, and our obligations of humanitarian protection under international law. That’s what it means to be a nation of laws."