IRC: Senate should terminate national emergency proclamation, focus on crisis northern triangle

Washington DC, March 12, 2019 The International Rescue Committee (IRC) urges the US Senate to vote yes on the “Resolution of Disapproval” which would terminate the national emergency declared on February 15. The Presidential Proclamation was intended to secure funding to build a physical barrier on the southern border, citing a security crisis. But as IRC staff on the ground in Central America report, the real crisis of gang conflict, gender-based violence, and persecution is taking place in the Northern Triangle, which is the origin point of 95.5 percent of the families and 83 percent of the unaccompanied children who crossed the border to seek asylum in FY19 to date. Of the total number that crossed the border in FY19 to date, more than half of the people crossing the border are families, and nearly 27,000 (10 percent)  are children who are fleeing despite the dangerous trek unaccompanied by a guardian or a parent.

Using an emergency declaration to bypass US Congress to build a physical barrier on the border, forcibly returning children back into harm’s way, and continuing to utilize loopholes to separate children from families all undermine the United States’ strategic leadership and moral clarity on humanitarian issues.

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Said Nazanin Ash, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy:

“After the longest government shutdown in U.S. history failed to deliver funding for the Wall, President Trump declared a national emergency on February 15, manufacturing a crisis and putting asylum seekers in the middle. However, the reality is clear: There is no national emergency at the border.

“The true crisis is the instability in Central America that has forced people to flee for their lives, coupled with the administration’s systematic attacks on these same vulnerable individuals. In particular, violence in the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador is amongst some of the worst in the world outside of an active war zone. The journey north is fraught with peril, but in the words of those walking this dangerous path, there is no scarier place than home.

“These vulnerable populations have come to the U.S. due to our history of being a safe haven for those in need and have found themselves forcibly returned to Mexico as part of the “Remain in Mexico” policy, separated from their families and blocked from claiming asylum. This is in clear violation of both U.S. and international law.

“Senators can stand with asylum seekers and vulnerable populations today by supporting the Resolution of Disapproval against the national emergency declaration. We must uphold America’s humanitarian commitments and acknowledge that there is no national emergency at the border.”

Northern Triangle remains as one of the most dangerous places on Earth

Based on the IRC’s experience in the region, the fears of persecution among those fleeing Central America’s Northern Triangle are very real. El Salvador has one of the highest rates of murder per capita in the world outside of an active war zone, and one of the highest rates of femicide in the world. In Honduras, there were 417 killings of women directly related to their gender (UN) in 2015, including as a result of domestic violence. Overall there are 43 murders per 100,000 people, according to Honduras’ National Autonomous University. Guatemala’s homicide rate has seen a decline in recent years, yet is still higher than the Latin American average with 27.3 murders per 100,000 people. Further, violence is a clear driver of migration: in Guatemala, a 1% increase in homicides drives migration by 100%, in Honduras, by 120% and in El Salvador by 188%.

IRC staff in El Salvador continue to provide emergency response operations. They have witnessed first-hand the vulnerabilities and protection needs of those seeking asylum in the US. To date, the IRC in El Salvador has provided cash to more than 1440 beneficiaries through an IRC designed and led cash mechanism with 18 partners; trained over 820 civil society and government partners in protection in practice; recorded more than 64,000 visits to the IRC’s interactive platform CuentaNos.org which provides up-to-date information for displaced populations; directly addressed 42 crisis cases for those being deported back to El Salvador, or in highly vulnerable situations within El Salvador; and disbursed immediate emergency cash assistance to vulnerable Salvadorans returning from the migrant caravans (99).

The US House of Representatives has voted for a “Resolution of Disapproval” to end the national emergency. The Senate is due to vote on the same resolution in the coming days. The IRC is calling on Congress to stand with asylum seekers against the crisis taking place at the Northern Triangle.

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 28 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.