STATEMENT: North Carolina's treament of child refugees is a critical moral test

RALEIGH (August 6, 2014) — Our nation was founded by immigrants. For centuries, our values have told us that taking in refugees in crisis is not only the right thing to do, it makes America stronger in the long run.

How we treat the child refugees coming to North Carolina this year is a moral litmus test of the highest order. Sadly, Gov. Pat McCrory's recent statements on the issue fall far short of meeting this standard.

This should not be a partisan issue, and concern for refugee children crosses ideological lines. The conservative commentator George Will recently pointed out how easily America could accommodate these unaccompanied minors, and chided those who—like Gov. McCrory—use scare tactics to suggest these children are some kind of threat. "The idea that we can't assimilate these 8-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous," Will said.

Authorities estimate that 1,200 unaccompanied child refugees, primarily from the Central American nations Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, have been placed with a sponsor or relative in North Carolina since January.

That's about 12 children for each of North Carolina's counties. To say we cannot accommodate this number of endangered children is shameful. To suggest that we care deeply about them—but argue for their immediate deportation back toward the violence from which they fled—is dangerous hypocrisy. Each of these children deserves qualified legal representation and a fair day in court to determine the outcome of their immigration case.

Consider the risks inherent in walking hundreds of miles, as a child, to cross a foreign border without any guarantees of help once you arrive. Now consider how bad the violence you must face in your home country must be if your parents have decided that sending you on this dangerous journey seems like the only option.

This is about our values as Americans, and as North Carolinians. If we can’t welcome children in crisis, children who are fleeing drug-fueled violence, then we will fail a critical moral test.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Dani Moore, dani@ncjustice.org, 919.533.9203; Jeff Shaw, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).