STATEMENT – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Denounces President Trump’s Failure to Recognize Central American Child Migration as a Refugee Crisis

For Immediate Release:
July 28, 2017

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Miji Bell
mbell@lirs.org; 410-230-2841
Michelle Blundell
mblundell@mrss.com; 202-478-6176

WASHINGTON, DC – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) denounces President Trump’s statements today saying Central American kids are a burden on U.S. communities, as well as his generalizations about their relationship to MS-13. LIRS has found the opposite to be true. Families, schools, churches, and communities want to welcome these vulnerable refugee children.

Children who flee Central America are escaping horrible violence by criminal gangs and other actors. In a recent analysis conducted by LIRS of post-release case management services covering the past three fiscal years, we found that in over 6,000 cases less than 1 percent of kids had any gang involvement. In addition, 81 percent of those kids disclosed trafficking indicators and shared they were fleeing criminal gangs.

The stories we continue to hear and collect are haunting and heartbreaking. For example, LIRS recently served one 17-year-old teen who endured numerous attacks by gangs. The individual was beaten with rocks and even thrown over a bridge.

These youth brave a horrible journey in order to gain a life free of gang persecution. We ought to provide them protection from predators and professional criminals. Instead our government is pursuing polices that will end up criminalizing victims.

Due to their vulnerability since they arrive in the U.S. alone, these young migrants receive certain protections under U.S. law. When they are processed by the federal government, they get screened by trained child welfare professionals prior to their release to family members and other caregivers throughout the U.S. These post-release services ensure safety, well-being, and a path to permanency. Through risk assessment, action-planning with families around areas of need and concern, systems advocacy with community providers, and culturally-appropriate services and community referrals, post-release services strengthen families and protect children. These are all services that we have helped provide since 1994.

It’s time for this administration to stop ignoring the protection needs of children with U.S. ties. Closing our hearts and doors to these children who have families here in the U.S. who are willing and eager to protect and care for them runs contrary to our American values.

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Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is the second largest refugee resettlement agency in the United States. It is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating with refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through more than 75 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.