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Republicans, anti-immigrant forces want faster deportation of immigrant children

Obama administration begins to speed deportations
By Masao Suzuki |
July 21, 2014
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San José, CA - As more Central American children flee violence and poverty and seek to reunite with their families already in the U.S., anti-immigrant vigilantes are targeting buses carrying children. Republican politicians have likened the children to an invading army and have called for changing the law to allow for faster deportations.

While immigrant rights forces have been organizing counter-demonstrations in support of the child refugees, Obama has asked for $3.7 billion to build more detention centers for families and children. According to Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security that oversees immigration enforcement, more money for more detention facilities will allow for faster deportations. Already, 38 undocumented women and children have been flown back to Honduras, under the administration policy to ‘fast-track’ deportations.

Three years ago, fewer than 5000 Central American children were caught near the U.S. border with Mexico. So far this year, almost 40,000 Central American children entering the U.S. without adults have been detained by the U.S. border patrol, and even more children who came with their families are being held. The single largest group of immigrant children is from Honduras, which has the highest rate of murders (almost one for every 1000 people each year) of all countries in the world. Honduras also has one of the lowest Gross Domestic Products (a measure of economic output) and the highest measure of economic inequality in all of Latin America. This means that two-thirds of Hondurans are poor, and one third of the population lives in extreme poverty.

Honduras has long been under the sway of the U.S. government and U.S. corporations. Neoliberal policies that favored foreign investment and an export economy go back almost 150 years, to the 1870s, leading to large investments by U.S. fruit corporations. The U.S. sent troops to Honduras more than a half dozen times in the early 1900s. A U.S.-backed military government ruled Honduras for almost 20 years and as recently as five years ago a U.S.-backed coup d’état overthrew the elected president. The 2006 Central American Free Trade Agreement or CAFTA has further opened up the Honduran economy to giant U.S. multinational corporations. The economic and political rule of Honduras by the U.S. has meant poverty and violence for the majority of its people. Similar situations in Guatemala and El Salvador are also driving growing numbers of their children to the U.S.

A 2008 law passed under President Bush with bipartisan support requires children who enter the U.S. without any adults be given a hearing before an immigration judge, unless they are from Canada or Mexico, in which case they can be deported without a hearing. With hearings backlogged for years, most of the children from Central America are being released to family members in the U.S. while waiting for their hearings, which is raising the ire of the anti-immigrant movement.

While immigrant rights forces have been able to pressure the president to not propose changing the 2008 deportation law, the administration and top Democratic congressional leaders continue to signal their willingness to do so if the Republicans will pass their funding request. Only a stronger grassroots movement can challenge what is a growing bipartisan effort to speed up the deportations of children.

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