Governor Branstad Misses the Point With Immigrant Children Crisis

Affiliate: ACLU of Iowa
July 17, 2014 12:00 am

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ACLU of Iowa
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Des Moines, Iowa — Governor Terry Branstad’s recent comments on the immigration crisis of unaccompanied immigrant children who have arrived at U.S. borders show a lack of understanding about border security and enforcement.

These children are fleeing conditions in their home countries that defy comprehension, including violence and abuse, many at the hands of drug cartels and gangs. Branstad’s comment that this humanitarian crisis is a result of “poor border enforcement” is disturbingly uninformed. The reason these children are in U.S. custody is they were stopped at the border by Customs and Border Patrol. Border security is also irrelevant to our legal and moral obligations
to protect children’s human rights and provide them with humane and fair treatment while in our custody.

The government must ensure that all children are given a hearing before an immigration judge, with the right to an appeal, before being removed. Children must be given enough time with legal counsel to identify any claims they may have, including as asylum seekers, as victims of abuse, exploitation, and trafficking. Children should never be held in conditions that are more restrictive than necessary or that fails to meet their basic needs. Jails and prisons are rarely if ever acceptable holding places for children.

We call on the Governor to show leadership, compassion, and nuance in the way that he speaks about human beings and in how he represents our state. Our political leaders should stay true to the history and values of the people of Iowa to be welcoming to newcomers—especially children—who need our care and protection.

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