The Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA) released the following Dignity Statement in response to the issue of unaccompanied minors crossing the Mexican Border into the U.S.


We need a humanitarian response to the crisis at the US/Mexico border — not expedited deportations. Like climate change this crisis was created by bad decisions by our government that go back decades and can only be resolved by dealing with the root causes of migration.

The desperation of poverty, violence, and separation of families causes people to consider the dangerous journey from Central America to Texas without a visa.

Yet over 300,000 people a year have crossed the border for over the past two decades –women, young people, and children. When the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994, 4.6 million people born in Mexico lived north of the border. Now it’s about 12.5 million. More have come from Central America because of wars the U.S. promoted in the 1980s, and a ‘free trade’ agreement for Central American countries signed nine years ago.

These are the real causes of migration. The real solutions lie in reversing the impact of policies like NAFTA and CAFTA, and ending U.S. support for the military and police in those countries and our disastrous ‘war on drugs’ policies.

The media and right wing hysteria whipped up from the initial ‘expose’ by conservative website — then picked up by the likes of the New York Times –was pounced upon by conservative governors Rick Perry of Texas and Jan Brewer of Arizona, who say the children should be kept in detention, not released to relatives. Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert claimed the children were “putting lives of border patrol agents at risk.” Another Republican, Bob Goodlatte, wants more enforcement “at the border and in the interior of the U.S. to end these kinds of situations.”

The White House has responded by agreeing with them. President Obama has asked Congress for $3.7 billion more for enforcement. Democrats in Congress call for $2.7 billion. While more money to provide a decent shelter to children while they locate their relatives is a good idea, as well as lawyers to process their asylum claims, these proposals also include more money for the Border Patrol, detention centers, and even support for the military and police in Honduras and Guatemala, who are guilty of the human rights abuses these families are fleeing. More enforcement and military aid will produce more displaces people, not less.

Instead of sending children to the Department of Health and Human Services and releasing them to their families, as the law now requires, the President wants to expedite deportation of the children. “Additional steps to enhance enforcement and removal proceedings [and] surging government enforcement resources … will allow ICE to return unlawful migrants from Central America to their home countries more quickly.” Republicans also support these terrible ideas. They have gone further, and demanded an end to the deferred action program that has given temporary legal status to young people brought to the U.S. as children. This program should be expanded to other undocumented people, not restricted or ended.

None of these measures will do anything other than cause more pain for the children and their families. More detention centers, more agents and guards, and increased deportations only benefit private profiteers who build and operate prisons for immigrants. The desperation of separated families will continue as long as the current conditions create poverty, conflict and displacement.

While some racist and nativist groups have demonstrated against giving children shelter, often with the covert aid of the Border Patrol, many communities have responded in a humane way. The mayor of Syracuse, New York, for instance, not only found a building to house the children, but said they were welcome until we got to the bottom of the causes of their displacement. Other communities have reenacted the sanctuary ordinances that offered protection to Central American refugees during the civil wars of the 1980s. They are acting on the true values that people in this country stand for.

We already spend more on immigration enforcement than all other law enforcement agencies of the Federal government combined. Billions more for streamlining deportations, is not the humanitarian responses we need. We should instead provide refuge for those children who are the victims of our past destructive policies. What we need is an end to policies that have produced an unprecedented 400,000 deportations a year. In the long run, we need to end the free trade and intervention policies that cause poverty and forced migration.

For further information, contact Bill Chandler, Executive Director, MIRA, at 601-968-5182, Fax: 601-968-5183; South Mississippi Field Office: 228-386-5164,