The United States must respect the “universal rights” of the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors illegally entering the country, according to the Salvadoran ambassador to the United States.
“We understand the concern of the U.S. government about the issue of immigration. We are aware that the phenomenon is not a stranger to electoral considerations; however, we must not ignore the fact that children detained at the border have universal rights that should be given priority over the interests of an expedient solution,” Rubén Zamora, the ambassador of El Salvador to the United States, wrote in a Miami Herald op-ed Thursday.
“Children are entitled to receive special protection from our consulates, where we contact their family members, collaborate on reunification either in the United States and El Salvador and avoid re-victimization,” he continued.
Vice President Joe Biden is meeting with Central American leaders Friday in Guatemala City, Guatemala, including the president of El Salvador, Sánchez Cerén, to discuss the ongoing crisis on the border. Many of the unaccompanied minors and family units are from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
While the Obama administration has said they believe that much of the movement northward is due to poverty and violence in migrants’ Central American home countries, Republicans argue that it has been the Obama administration’s failure to enforce immigration law and rumors about policies like Obama’s Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that has served as an enticement.
Zamora explained El Salvador believes the main driver is family reunification — in addition to criminal activity and lack of economic opportunities in parts of Central America.
“[W]e believe that the main motive behind this flow of migrants is the desire of families to reunite with their children. Since no legal option for reunification exists, families choose the risky alternative,” he wrote, adding that his country will work to combat gang violence and investigate human smuggling networks.
According to Zamora, in Cerén’s meeting with Biden he will push for family reunification and stress a commitment to improving the economic situation in the country.
“Although we are confident that campaigns to discourage migration will be important to inform many potential migrants about the risk of the travel, the lasting solution comes from a strategic dialogue that the countries of northern triangle of Central America, Mexico and the United States will create about three issues with common roots: immigration, citizen insecurity and lack of economic growth,” he wrote.
On Thursday, Obama spoke with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto about ways to deal with the regional immigration issue, pointing to areas the countries can work together to deal with the issue including reiterating that the new arrivals are not eligible for DACA.
“These kids who come to the United States are not only the children of our countries. They are the children of our region,” Zamora wrote.