August 23, 2014. Charleston. Post & Courier. By Victoria Middleton, Executive Director. This long, hot summer has not brought out the best in our elected officials.
Take for example the matter of the children and families fleeing violence and abuse in their home countries in Central America. Instead of looking out for these vulnerable kids, state officials in South Carolina have demanded to know details of their placement or whereabouts.
All but one of our representatives in the U.S. House voted for a bill that would have decimated due process for the refugees fleeing Central America and increased spending on an already over-militarized border, rather than ensuring that the immigration adjudication system is adequately resourced, so that every case is heard fairly and in a timely manner.
The heated rhetoric and rumor-sharing has hidden some facts from public view.
In fact, many of the children in question are under the age of 13 and are being located with adult family members or sponsors who will care for them and ensure their appearance at court hearings.
These children are not wards of the state. They have been placed in the custody of family or sponsors, pending review of their cases before immigration judges.
All of these children must be afforded due process.
That means the children must have the merits of their case considered by an immigration judge, and care must be given so that they are not deported to a country where they are not safe.
They should receive legal representation so that they are not forced to make complex legal claims alone, up against trained government attorneys.
And they must be treated humanely, like all children who have particular need of care.
Tracking these young children, as some officials have proposed, is not only unnecessary, it also raises serious privacy concerns because it invites the state to begin tracking the whereabouts of all people in South Carolina.
Our country has a long-standing and rigorous legal framework in place to review the claims of people seeking refuge and protection from trafficking in the United States or violence abroad. Short-changing this process means short-changing our constitutional principles.
According to our Constitution and its defining principles, all persons in our country are entitled to due process and fair treatment under the law.
It is critical that the government's legitimate immigration enforcement objectives be balanced against the need to ensure these children are treated fairly and with due process, American values embodied in our Constitution and our laws.