Zero Tolerance Declaration from Grassroots Organizations in North and Central America
This Declaration was signed by grassroots and social organizations in Mexico, including our Global Ministries longstanding partner, the Theological Community of Mexico.
To the Government of the United States:
To the Governments of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras:
To the Organizations that work for the Protection of Human Rights of the United Nations and of the United States:
To the General Public:
As of May 2018, the administration of the President of the United States, Donald Trump, has adopted new measures in its “Zero Tolerance Policy” towards asylum seekers from Mexico and Central America fleeing from violence and organized crime. The response of Civil Society is a policy of ZERO Tolerance towards fear policies that seek to discourage migration through practices that violate the Human Rights of Children and Adolescents (NNA).
We know that most children and adolescents who travel with their families flee violence. We can quote girls, boys and adolescents defining their countries of origin with phrases such as “the evil is there,” “it is very precious, but there is a lot of “Matancera” or “there is pure evil, pure envy.”
Closely observing the context of Mexico and Central America is similar to seeing through a kaleidoscope of violence: with each small turn made to the lens a different violence is discovered. The childhood and adolescence of our countries know it, they live it daily and for that reason they are driven to abandon their homes. Girls, boys and adolescents do not migrate on a whim, not for fun. The American dream has ceased to be the dream that was dreamed in the decade of the 70s. The American dream pursued by thousands of people from Mexico and Central America today is reduced to the most essential issue: saving lives. The struggle for life is not simple for migrants, who have to face multiple dangers in their journey through Mexican territory and in the attempt to cross into the United States. Since 2014, Mexico has cowardly decided to do the dirty work of the US government, which is why an increasingly strict migration policy has been implemented: The Southern Border Plan. Since 2015, the Mexican government has deported more Central American migrants than the United States. In 2017 alone, 82,237 people were deported.
In addition the dangers of irregular transit, current migrants face the zero tolerance situation of the US government. Those who legally apply for asylum at the border are criminalized and subjected to a trial; they are victims of unworthy treatment and multiple forms of violence. As part of this policy, a process of separation of families has been implemented. While the adults face the legal process, the children and adolescents are transferred to shelters.
Official data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of the United States show that from October 2016 to February 2018 1,800 girls, boys and adolescents have been separated from their trusted adults, parents and family members with whom they travel. In just the weeks of May 6 to 19 this year, 658 children have been separated. In that regard, the official figures of the US government indicate that at least 2,458 families have been separated, not counting the period from March 1 to May 6. This means that to date, there is no exact figure of the number of separated families, nor the specific situation of each one of the adults or of the children and adolescents.
In the context of violence in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, it is doubly devastating that upon their arrival in the United States, children and adolescents are criminally separated from their families. Similarly, from a historical perspective, the implementation of a practice of separation of families in the 21st century is profoundly painful as it reminds us of the most infamous acts committed by regimes like the Nazis during the Second World War or the dictatorship in Argentina. Children and adolescents are not objects that can be used for political purposes. They are not hostages or currency. The family separation that has been exhibited by different means is a violation of Human Rights and, therefore, unacceptable from any point of view.
THERE IS NO LAW WHICH HAS REQUIRED THE SEPARATION OF FAMILIES.
THESE PRACTICES ARE NOT PART OF THE LEGAL REFUGEE APPLICATION PROCEDURES. FAMILY SEPARATION REPRESENTS A VERY TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE FOR PARENTS, MOTHERS OR FAMILY MEMBERS AND THEIR CHILDREN AND DAUGHTERS. IT IS AN ABSOLUTELY INHUMANE POLICY THAT VIOLATES THE ELEMENTARY RIGHT TO A FAMILY, AS WELL AS THE PRINCIPLE OF HIGHER INTEREST IN CHILDREN.
For all the above, the undersigned organizations express our extreme concern about the separation of children and adolescents from their families as a deterrent to avoid irregular migration to the United States.
In addition, we express our absolute condemnation of the US government to the infamous use of migrant children and adolescents as political booty.
We Request the Government of the United States:
- Respect and safeguard the rights of children and adolescents who are in the United States, regardless of their immigration status.
- Have a civil perspective attached to Human Rights regarding irregular migration and stopping the criminal perspective.
- Acting in accordance with the law of the State of United States Justice System, which violates the due process of migrant children and adolescents and their families in their right to be together in the United States.
- Transparency of information regarding the exact number of separated families as well as the reasons, the legal status they have, and the location of all its members.
- Implement measures that repair the damage for those families that have been separated so that they can reunite as soon as possible with their loved ones.
- Total elimination of the family separation policy for asylum seeking groups.
- Establish legal orders that prohibit family separation under any situation.
To the governments of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras:
- Elimination of detention practices in Mexico, because although the legislation is prohibited, in reality there is still knowledge of analogous practices.
- Strong diplomatic response to US embassies for the inhumane treatment they give their children and adolescents on the United States border.
- That the Governments of the region – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – play a more leading role before the Embassies in their countries, in order to protect citizenship, placing particular emphasis on children and adolescents in the United States.
- Follow-up and legal support for cases of repatriation of families that have been separated, both for adults and for children and adolescents who are separated (some in shelters within the United States or Mexico and others in their country of origin), to achieve family reunification as soon as possible.
To the organizations that work for Protection of Human Rights of the United Nations and the United States:
- Closely monitor immigration policies that violate human rights.
- Demand from the United States Government the early elimination of family separation practices at the border.
The 38 organizations belonging to the Alliance for the Rights of Girls, Boys and Adolescents Mexico (Alianza MX)
The 12 organizations belonging to the Institutional Coordinator for the Rights of Children Guatemala (CIPRODENI)
The 22 organizations belonging to the Network of Institutions for the Rights of Children in Honduras (COIPRODEN)
The 30 organizations belonging to the Network for Children and Adolescents El Salvador (RIA El Salvador)
The 41 member organizations of the Niña Network
The 25 Universities, 76 organizations, 6 National Networks and 3 Regional Networks of the Latin American Trafficking in Trafficking and Trafficking of Persons with representation in 16 countries of Latin America.
The 13 organizations belonging to the Collective against Trafficking in Persons A.C.
Organizations: WIINIK. Land, Health, Gender and Rights, A.C. and Indigenous Allies A.C.
The 6 seminars of Protestant Inspiration of the Theological Community of Mexico
The 22 member institutions of the Ecumenical Theological Education Community of Latin America and the Caribbean (CETELA)