WASHINGTON, DC — DECEMBER 06: People who call themselves Dreamers, protest in front of the Senate side of the US Capitol to urge Congress in passing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, on December 6, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Congress Must Pass A Clean and Robust DREAM Act to Protect DREAMERS from Persecution and Violence in the Northern Triangle

By Kaitlyn O’Shaughnessy, Amnesty International USA’s Women’s Human Rights Thematic Specialist

Amnesty International USA urges Congress to pass a clean and robust DREAM Act that would confer permanent residency and a pathway to U.S. citizenship — essential requirements to protect the human rights of all Dreamers.

Concern about President Trump’s decision to rescind DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) has focused in large part on its adverse effect on the U.S. economy and the futures of DACA recipients (Dreamers) and their families. Dreamers are young adults that were brought to the United States as children, and who have grown up in this country. While DACA recipients hail from a number of countries, what’s been overlooked is the grave danger that many of the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and parts of Mexico would inevitably face if the U.S. government were to return them to a country many have not visited in decades, some of whom were infants when they arrived here in the United States.

The Northern Triangle is plagued by ultra-violent gangs, drug traffickers, and corrupt police and other government officials. Gender-based violence is rampant and largely unchecked, and discrimination and persecution against the LGBTI community occurs with virtual guarantees of impunity. Due to the combination of extreme resource scarcity; intimidation by gangs and other criminal actors; institutional weaknesses within police, prosecutors’ offices, and the courts; and pervasive corruption and impunity, governments are unable and, in certain respects, unwilling to protect individuals at risk or who have been victimized. More than 95 percent of homicides in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala go unpunished, while the impunity rate for all crimes in Mexico is 99 percent. It has been commonly recognized for years that prosecution of cases of gender-based violence, including sexual violence, has consistently been in the low single digits; and due to deeply embedded prejudices toward individuals of non-conforming sexual and gender identities, investigation and prosecution of cases of violence against members of the LGBTI community is virtually non-existent.

Due to the nature of community life, generally speaking, Dreamers would be immediately recognized wherever they settled and at high risk from gangs and other predatory groups for extortion, kidnapping for ransom, gender-based and sexual violence, coerced service to gangs and drug trafficking organizations, discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation, and abuses in the labor market.

Dreamers have grown up in the United States and lack critically important life experience in their countries of origin. Exacerbating their vulnerability further is the fact that many have no family to support and protect them during the difficult and dangerous reintegration process. Without a family network, and given sub-poverty level wages, even Dreamers with a college education, marketable employment skills and Spanish language fluency may find it impossible to survive. Those who lack such skills, or who speak only marginal Spanish, would face even greater difficulties.

The only good news in all this is we can still make our voices heard, and stand with Dreamers in a call for a clean Dream Act today. Call the US Capitol switchboard TODAY at (202) 224–3121 to urge your Senator to support passage of a Clean DREAM Act now. A clean DREAM Act must not contain a border wall or any additional “border security” measures that would endanger Central American children and families seeking humanitarian protection in the United States.

When considering the future of DACA, it is imperative that policy-makers recognize that deporting Dreamers could place them in dangerous and life-threatening situations.

Kaitlyn O’Shaughnessy is Amnesty International USA’s Women’s Human Rights Thematic Specialist. She is an immigration attorney in the Washington, DC area and represents asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, and individuals in removal proceedings.

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We've been fighting the bad guys since 1961 - you can join us! Official Amnesty International USA profile.