This week kicks off the NALACC summer of action with an email campaign to urge President Obama to protect immigrant children and families fleeing violence and insecurity in Central America. As an immigrant-led network, this issue has struck us to the core. Our members around the country are saddened by the plight of these children, overwhelmed with requests for help, as well as shocked and disappointed by the way the matter is being treated by national elected officials and the Obama Administration. Yet, reasons for hope are everywhere around us. Faith communities, lawyers, local mayors and people of conscience everywhere are stepping up to try to help. Our task is to help shape a bigger movement out of all those wonderful local efforts.
Over the next thirty days, NALACC members around the country will be hard at work to ensure that the refugee children coming to this country from Central America are protected. We will also launch a series of transnational advocacy delegations aimed at countries in Central America. The short term objective is clear: we cannot deport children back into harm’s way. It is wrong and it it is counter to our values as a nation. The longer-term objective is to build understanding among our members, the public, and policymakers about the causes at the root of the current crisis. Escalating violence and insecurity did not spring up over night and we need to work together with countries in the region to make it possible for children to be safe and able to thrive in their countries of origin.
We have a four-pronged campaign plan for the next several months:
1. Tell the Obama Administration and Lawmakers: “Children First– Protect, Don’t Deport”. NALACC will launch a week of Advocacy on August 18 requesting that President Obama live up to his commitment to treat the issue of Central American refugee children as the humanitarian crisis it is–ensuring that all children have access to legal counsel, due process, and all the legal protection afforded under national and international law. NALACC members will also meet with legislators in-district during the Congressional recess to reinforce the message that it would be immoral and a betrayal of our values to water down the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. This effort includes sign-on letters, nationally coordinated call-in days (weekly), and visits to members of Congress in district and at town hall meetings around the country.
2. All Children Are Sacred: NALACC members have launched a campaign of vigils and prayer days in alliance with faith communities around the countries to raise up our voices for these refugee children. These events are already taking place in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami and will be expanded to all NALACC members around the country. Keep an eye on our FaceBook page for announcements: https://www.facebook.com/NALACC2004. We will also join with many other organizations around the country in a day of action on August 28 linking this crisis to the urgent need for administrative relief from deportations for the many families around the country who live in constant fear.
3. Getting to the Roots of the Child Exodus- Educating Ourselves and our Allies. NALACC will conduct a series of webinars and conference calls aimed at sharing and deepening our understanding of the structural issues at the root of the exodus of children from Central America. Why has this region become so dangerous? What is the responsibility of the United States? Of governments in the region? These calls include civil society partners from each of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Beginning on August 25, delegations of NALACC members will begin to travel to Central America to conduct targeted advocacy pressing governments to take immediate action to protect children and families, and especially those who are returned through deportation or “voluntary” removal. These visits will also raise awareness of the root causes and propose concrete steps toward increasing hope and opportunity for children in their countries of origin.
4. Taking a Stand at the Local Level– Municipal resolutions and solidarity. NALACC members in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston have already made progress toward engaging local policymakers in efforts to welcome refugee children. These examples will be shared with other NALACC members with the goal of at least ten cities speaking out in support of children by the end of the summer.