By Elvira Arellano
It was strange to me to hear the North American media applaud President Obama for chiding the President of China on the “Issue of human rights.” Undoubtedly, there are human rights abuses in China – but isn’t this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?
5.1 million children under the age of 18, 80% of whom are U.S. citizens, representing 7% of all the children in the United States, live in the daily fear that one or both of their undocumented parents will be picked up by men with guns and taken away from them. It is not a baseless fear, as the 1100 people deported every day include many of the parents of these children – every day!
Is not the separation of children from their parents a violation of human rights? Is not this persecution of over 5 million children a human rights violation on a massive scale? What hypocrisy for the President of the United States to criticize China and pursue one of the most heartless policies and widespread violations of the human rights of children in the world!
It does not stop at the border. The system of undocumented labor, the “permissive exploitation” of millions of migrants who have been and continue to be offered employment in the United States draws migrants to make journeys of death all down the continent. The terrorizing of migrants in southern Mexico by a combination of gangs and official representatives of the government also stains the hands of the United States. And while the U.S. Congress fails to legislate an end to the system of undocumented labor, that system continues. The terror of deportations only slightly reduces the numbers in times of unemployment – it does not end the system. To do that, they would have to legalize the undocumented and give them the rights of other workers to end the permissive exploitation.
I am pleased to announce that Familia Latina Unida has been joined by Congressman Gutierrez in their call for a campaign this year on behalf of the 5.1 million children and their right to be secure with their families. Shortly, the campaign will begin collecting the names of these families in order to present the demand that President Obama offer their parents the status of ‘parole in place.”
Familia Latina Unida President Emma Lozano points out that existing law allows the President to grant this “parole in place” status to the families of U.S. citizen children or children who have been raised here and know no other country. In fact, the congress would have to change the law to take this authority away from the President.
The request for the President to use his legal power to stop the separation of families, to stop abusing the human rights of 5.1 million children, has already been made by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Perhaps President Obama was waiting to see if comprehensive legislation would be passed by the Congress. The shift to Republican control of the U.S. House of Representatives means that that is very unlikely for the next two years.
The movement, including all of our elected officials, community leaders and pastors, must make the human rights case of the children with the greatest urgency. We must begin the collection of children and family cases today – and we must bring their cause forcefully to the attention of the President, the nation – and the world. Remember, we are simply asking the President to use his law and order powers to stop a massive situation of the violation of human rights, of the violation of 5.1 million children. Viva la Causa!