Excluded from Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America, Civil Society Leaders Hold Briefing on the Northern Triangle Refugee Crisis and the US Response

For Immediate Release: June 15, 2017

Contact: Kevin Appleby at kappleby@cmsny.org

Speakers ask governments to look at issues through a human rights lens

On Wednesday, June 14, 2017, civil society representatives held a briefing at the Florida International University School of Law to address the issue of the human rights of Central Americans fleeing violence in the Northern Triangle—the nations of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.  The briefing occurred a day before the June 15-16 Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America in Miami.  A recording of the briefing can be found at: https://lawmediasite.fiu.edu/Mediasite/Play/966294f184f948ee866de588890bdcb71d

The conference, hosted by the US and Mexico governments and attended by Central American governments, will focus on security and economic issues in the region.  Civil society organizations, including groups on the ground in the Northern Triangle, have been excluded from participating in the conference.  The briefing follows a lettersigned by over 100 national and international civil society allies from the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador (as well as other countries in Latin America and Europe), expressing concerns regarding the topics to be discussed at the conference and urging Secretary Tillerson to demonstrate leadership to ensure that human rights do not take a backseat in any agreements reached during the conference.

“The Prosperity and Security Conference on Central America should be a moment for the Trump Administration to show that it is serious about addressing the root causes to the refugee crisis in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America. It should not be a moment for expanding flawed border enforcement or prioritizing private sector investment for mega-development projects which will only cause more displacement. Human rights protection, including the right to seek asylum, should be the cornerstones of any U.S. policy to the region—sidelining these issues and excluding civil society organizations from the conference is a mistake. As the co-host of the conference, Mexico should not agree to cooperate with the United States if it means deporting asylum seekers back to harm,” said Daniella Burgi-Palomino, Senior Associate at the Latin America Working Group.

Abel Nuñez, executive director of CARECEN-DC and member of Alianza Americas, said that the conference should focus more upon the protection of Central American refugees who are fleeing endemic violence in the region.  “People are fleeing for their lives,’ Nuñez said.  “Instead of pushing back these asylum-seekers, the US and Mexico should be offering them protection from persecution in their homelands. We should be using all means at our disposal for protections, including renewing and reaffirming Temporary Protected Status,” he added.

Kevin Appleby, Senior Director for international migration policy at the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN) stated that the US and Mexico need to end deterrence policies against Central Americans, as bonafide refugees are being denied access to asylum protection. “The use of detention, the return of asylum-seekers without due process, and the absence of a long-term re-integration program for returnees place these refugees in further danger, and, in some cases, violate the principle of non-refoulement.”

“While the conference is an important meeting to discuss this ongoing crisis, it is unfortunate that civil society is excluded,” said Randy McGrorty, director of the Catholic Charities Legal Immigration program for the Archdiocese of Miami.  “They bring years of expertise to the issues in the Northern Triangle, yet this administration chooses not to hear their policy prescriptions for this humanitarian challenge.”

Sponsoring organizations included Alianza Americas, American Friends Service Committee, CARECEN Latino Resource and Justice Center, Catholic Charities Legal Services of the Archdiocese of Miami, FL, Florida International University Law School, Florida International University Kimberly Green Latin America and Caribbean Center, the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), the Latin America Working Group Education Fund,  the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN), and the Women’s Refugee Commission.