Unaccompanied Minor Children from Central America Testify Before Members of Congress

Three children from Central America who came to the United States unaccompanied appeared before members of Congress on Tuesday to explain their journeys to the United States.

Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalva hosted the hearing with other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Grijalva said he didn't want people, especially members of Congress, to become "detached" from the issue of Central American children fleeing their countries for the United States, as several proposals have been made in Congress to deal with the issue.

"I think as a Congress we're missing the point of this whole issue," Grijalva said. "The point is that were talking primarily about children, we're talking primarily about their fleeing violence and fleeing many times for their own safety and lives. And we're missing the point that, as a nation, we're the embodiment of those values that protect the weaker, those values that protect the people fleeing persecution and prosecution."

See also:
-The U.S. Tries to Deport Not Protect Children Fleeing Violence in Central America

Dulce Medina, age 15, fled Guatemala five years ago, after witnessing and being subject to violence in the streets where she lived, and was assaulted by the aunt she lived with after her mother left home to try to get a better opportunity in the United States. In one example, she described a time when a construction worker cornered her and her cousin, and attempted to remove their clothing. She said her aunt accused her of lying and hit her, and she believed the police were corrupt -- a belief she formed when she saw a woman she knew get shot near her home, and police didn't pursue the case.

Dulce was granted Special Immigrant Juvenile status, which got her a green card, and allowed her to reunite with family in New York.

Under legislation proposed by Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake -- and in legislation proposed by the House GOP -- Dulce may not have had the chance to present her case to a judge. Instead, the senators have proposed legislation they say would, "Allow for expedited removal of all undocumented immigrants that are stopped at the border attempting to enter the United States illegally, allowing law enforcement to return them to their home countries within a matter of hours or days as opposed to the months or years removal currently takes in most cases."

Dulce and the other two children undoubtedly were brought in by these left-wing representatives to put human faces on the crisis.

"Would you want to be sent back to a place where someone needs to harm you?" Dulce asked.

Mayeli Hernandez, a 12-year-old from Honduras, cried as she explained how her mother left her when she was 8 so she could find work in the United States. She witnessed two murders in Honduras before making the trip to the U.S.

"On two different occasions, I saw someone kill another person, and it was very ugly to see the blood running on the ground," Mayeli said through a translator. "I was scared that I would be killed like those men were killed."

Mayeli has since been reunited with her mother in New York.

"I would miss my mom a lot if I had to go back to my country," she said.

Saul Martinez, the other youngster on the panel, is a 15-year-old from El Salvador. He described getting death threats from MS-13 gangsters, just for riding his bike through the neighborhood.

Saul said he went to school with several MS-13 members, and Saul and his friends always feared that they would try to recruit them into the gang. Refusing to join the gang is "not a choice" you're presented, Saul explained, saying that they kill boys who refuse. Saul is also living in New York now.

A recent New Times cover story relayed the account of another young man who's fled Central American violence, and has since found a home in Phoenix.

The members of the Progressive Caucus urged doing things to help the children, instead of what many members of Congress -- and indeed, many Americans -- are saying: to turn them away.

"We cannot cover our ears to their cries for help," Congresswoman Judy Chu said.

There have been different proposals from President Obama, Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans, and House Republicans to deal with the crisis. The Republican plans include changing the 2008 law signed by President George W. Bush that prevents immediate deportation of unaccompanied minor children from countries other than Canada or Mexico.

A major right-wing talking point (used by the likes of Charles Krauthammer, and others) is that removing this provision would treat all immigrant children the same, but removing that provision certainly isn't something these members of the Progressive Caucus agree with.

"Treating children the same means taking away the right to due process," Congresswoman Lucille Roybal Allard said at yesterday's hearing.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley