The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees has adopted the following definition of a refugee: Any person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country“. The concept of a refugee was expanded by the Convention’s 1967 Protocol and by regional conventions to include persons who had fled war or other violence in their home country.
At the present time there are millions of refugees in different countries of the world. The numbers of refugees in Lebanon from Syria are over a million.
The American Issue:
While America has actively supported and even assisted other countries in the world to host refugees, it perhaps never realized that it would be any significant issue for America on its own soil (with the exception of Cuba). America is separated from the old world and Africa by vast oceans and has two large countries on its Northern and Southern borders with no prospect of war or religious violence erupting in any major way to cause large scale human displacements. What America has had to contend with for long have been illegal immigrants who seek to enter America for economic reasons. Therefore recently when a large scale influx of unaccompanied children took place through America’s southern borders, many viewed this as an immigration issue rather than a refugee one. However an unexpected war is taking place in Central America, a war that America has supported, the Drug Wars. The scale of violence in some Central American countries exceeds the violence in 2008-12 in Iraq as quoted in a report at Vox.com. It has caused a large number of persons to flee across Mexico into America. While America must examine if some of these are refugees or illegal immigrants, when it comes to children unaccompanied by adults there is little doubt in any reasonable mind that the majority of these are in fact refugees. Some of the children are as young as three along with a somewhat older sister less than ten years of age. What do these children know about economic prospects? There is no place lovelier for a child than home and parents unless some terrible violence and fear moves them out of it. Children do know about love and fear very well. A UNHCR report describing these refugees is here
As a Party to the 1967 Protocol, the U.S. is obliged to recognize valid asylum claims under the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol. The Refugee Act of US of 1980 is the domestic legislation governing asylum law in the U.S. The Refugee Act codifies the obligations of the U.S. under the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol.
While America seems to be flustered over the issue it must note that when a small country like Lebanon, that is approximately one thousand times smaller than America and much poorer can host more than a million Syrian refugees, it would not be an impossible feat for America to host 0.05 million child refugees. Moreover these are traumatized children in desperate need. However, the first step is to recognize that these children are refugees and not immigrants and in no case are they illegal in absolutely anyway.
UPDATE JULY 10
The UN appears to have endorsed the stand of this blog right from the start. According to it: U.S. and Mexico should recognize that this is a refugee situation, which implies that they shouldn’t be automatically sent to their home countries but rather receive international protection.”
For a full report see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/08/un-enters-immigration-debate_n_5565807.html