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Letter to Editor: Central American Refugees

Published in: The New York Timea

To the Editor:

Obama Approves Plan to Let Children Apply for Refugee Status in Central America” (news article, Oct. 1) reports that human rights advocates have praised the idea of in-country refugee processing. Count us out.

The Obama administration’s in-country processing plan will not provide a safe alternative for children who are fleeing for their lives.

Children with real protection needs will not have the luxury of waiting patiently, possibly for years, for the United States to review and assess complex claims in what surely will fast become a backlogged system.

Moreover, in the 1990s, in-country processing was used as a pretext for interdicting fleeing Haitians and forcing them back to life-threatening situations. Whatever merits in-country processing may have for those who seek family reunification, it risks legitimizing summary returns from Mexico that will expose many asylum seekers to grave danger.

The real solution is the fair and efficient processing of asylum claims in the United States, and resettlement programs in neighboring countries.

Washington, Oct. 2, 2014

The writers are, respectively, the director of the refugee program and a researcher for the United States program of Human Rights Watch.

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