LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Los Angeles City Council called on the federal government to offer immigration hearings and grant refugee status to Central American children who arrived in the United States by way of the country’s southwest over the past several months.
The council voted 13-0 to approve a resolution calling on Congress and President Barack Obama to give the youngsters the chance to apply for refugee status, which would enable them to remain in the U.S. indefinitely, and to oppose attempts to repeal or weaken protections in the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.
The law halts the deportation of immigrant children from Central America who are not from Mexico or Canada and gives them access to attorneys and immigration hearings. It also enables the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to find the children a home or explore pairing them with family members already in the United States.
“This motion calls on the president not to change that law, to recognize these children for what they are and to respect that law as it is,” said Councilman Gil Cedillo, who coauthored the resolution with fello council members Mitch O’Farrell, Nury Martinez and Curren Price.
Giving the children legal hearings and refugee status is both a “moral responsibility” and a “matter of law,” Cedillo said, adding they should be playing sports or performing in “dance or theater recitals like my granddaughters were this weekend.”
Instead, he said, they took the “most incredible, dangerous trek from Central America” to escape “the most violent country and countries of the world.” The United States is complicit, Cedillo said, because “much of the violence is a product of our foreign policy.”
When a bus full of children arrived in Murrieta to be temporarily resettled pending a decision on what to do with them, people opposed to sheltering them blocked the vehicle’s path, prompting immigration officials to take them to a military base in San Diego County.
Cedillo called that reaction “mob rule,” adding that “the children who were on the bus are protected as a matter of law.”
Councilman Jose Huizar said attempts to deny the children immigration hearings would be un-American.
Los Angeles is home to large populations of people from El Salvador,Honduras and Guatemala, and some of the children being detained presumably would have ended up here, council members said.
More than 50,000 Central American children have fled to the UnitedStates since October 2013, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics, with the number expected to go beyond 90,000 this year.
A United Nations commission interviewed 400 of the recently arrived children and determined they fled their homes to escape poverty, the effects of unemployment, traumatic situations and insufficient protection from gang crime, according to the council members.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said someone with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asked city officials for help, by way of community groups, in placing the recent arrivals with family members in the United States.