Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) will meet today with her Congressional Latino Council (CLC) and other key District Latino leaders to discuss the recent surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The District of Columbia and the region are home to many Central American residents. Following President Obama’s call to Congress last week to act on comprehensive immigration reform, including his request for an additional $2 billion to aid in the processing of undocumented immigrants, Norton is seeking expert advice from those who work closely with the District’s Latino community.
“Over 50,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended at the border since October of last year, many of them under 13 years old and a large number of them females,” Norton said. “Most are coming from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The District of Columbia has a special relationship with residents from these countries, as they make up the majority of our Latino community here in our city. Many who will attend our meeting know our Central American community best. Their advice and counsel will be invaluable as I seek ways to assist our residents and the children who may have relatives here. This emergency implicates not only U.S. law and values, but also international law and treaties because these children are eligible for humanitarian protection, such as asylum or special immigrant juvenile status.”
Norton’s Congressional Latino Council includes representatives from Latino nonprofits in the city, including La Clinica del Pueblo, Latin American Youth Center (LAYC), Central American Resource Center (CARCEN), and the Latino Economic Development Center. Representatives from D.C.’s Office of Latino Affairs and Mary House, a community-based organization that provides transitional housing services, shelter and support programs to low-income and homeless families throughout the D.C. area, are also expected to attend today’s meeting.
The meeting is in response to the growing number of unaccompanied minors from Central America fleeing chaos from transnational street gangs, drug cartels, and other violence. On June 30, President Obama recognized this surge as a humanitarian crisis and urged Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Recently, the Administration has said that many of these children will be returned to the countries from which they have fled, but it is doubtful that, after the required individual hearings, they will be simply returned to countries where violent criminals have all but taken control.
It has been more than a year since the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform, but Speaker John Boehner has refused to bring the bill to a vote in the House. Norton is a cosponsor of the House’s version of the Senate bill, H.R. 15, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. This bill has gained nearly 200 bipartisan cosponsors in the House. In December 2013, Norton co-signed a letter to President Obama asking him to suspend deportations and expand the successful deferred action program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which House Republicans continue to oppose.
The Washington, D.C. metropolitan area has one of the largest Central American populations in the country, including close to 60,000 Latinos living in the District, with most residing in Wards 1 and 4.