President Obama’s support for Syrian refugees is to be commended [“Today’s nativism, and yesterday’s,” editorial, Sept. 19]. However, his administration’s enforcement-based policies toward thousands of Central American women and children arriving at our border, seeking compassion and safety, are inhumane and a disgrace.
By any reasonable standard, these women and children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, fleeing violence and danger, are refugees. Yet they are treated as criminals. First, they are held in overcrowded Border Patrol cells, nicknamed “hieleras” (iceboxes), where they sleep on cold cement floors. Then they are jailed, sometimes for months or years, in a network of for-profit family detention prisons, causing or worsening emotional distress and suffering. Due process is dubious at best and includes unannounced deportations in the middle of the night. Those released to live with family often must wear electronic monitoring devices while living in fear of roundups by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.
These Central American women and children are the refugee crisis of our time on our border. While preaching to the world about compassion toward refugees, the president would be well-served to remember what is happening in our own back yard.
Allen S. Keller, New York
The writer is director of the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture.