This Is A Refugee Crisis, Ctd

Michelle Garcia turns to international law to argue that the Central American children pouring over the US-Mexico border deserve our protection:

report released in March by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which deserves wider mention in the press than it has received, found that of a representative sample of 404 Mexican and Central American child migrants interviewed, 58 percent “were forcibly displaced because they suffered or faced harms that indicated a potential or actual need for international protection.” 

In other words, an unspecified number of these children could be eligible for refugee status, meaning refusing the children could be a breach of U.N. Conventions.

Honduras regularly ranks as the “murder capitol of the world.” Violence in El Salvador has in recent years rivaled the levels of the civil war period. The link between violence and displacement was recently explored by Insight Crime, which noted that about 2 percent of the population of El Salvador and Mexico have been driven from their homes in recent years. In El Salvador, “Out of these approximately 130,000 individuals, nearly one-third felt compelled to leave their homes two or more times.”

Apart from the tough standards to qualify for refugee status, a 2008 law extends protections to children fleeing abuse. Between those rules and the refugee and amnesty guidelines, immigration lawyers believe up to 80 percent of the unaccompanied minors from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala may be eligible for a Special Immigrant Juveniles visa, according to a Fox News Latino report.

Meanwhile, Marc Siegel worries that the children being detained at the border aren’t being screened rigorously enough for communicable disease, noting apparent cases of scabies, TB, measles and chicken pox:

A physician working to take care of any infected child must treat that child with compassion and appropriate medication. He or she should never provide substandard care or weigh in on the political issue of whether a child should be in this country or how he or she got here.

At the same time, immigrants in poor health or suffering from a communicable illness who enter this country illegally create public health risks. This is why we have such an extensive system for screening the health of legal immigrants in the first place before they are allowed in. It is not a political statement to say that the effectiveness of these screenings is being undermined if hundreds of thousands pass through our borders without them. Whatever the partisan arguments about how this crisis erupted, the most urgent question right now is how to prevent a public health crisis.

Previous Dish on the Central American refugees here, here, and here.