Activists protest deportations of Central American immigrant children

Activists fast to advocate for immigrant rights. | Sinduja Rangarajan

Activists fast to advocate for immigrant rights. | Sinduja Rangarajan

Several human rights activist organizations gathered at Central American Resource Center near McArthur Park on Tuesday to send a message out to Congress: Don’t change current laws that protect children who emigrate alone from Central America.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, signed by President George W. Bush in 2008, allows unaccompanied minors who cross the border from Central America to have their cases individually considered by a judge. The law is meant to protect children who are fleeing from violence and abuse in their home countries.

“[This law] gives them the right to explain why they have fled their country and what the consequences would be if they were returned,” said Lindsay Toczylowski, directing attorney at the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project.”If Congress does away with these hearings, many children could be forcibly returned to deadly situations after only a cursory screening at the border or through an inadequate court process that disregards recognized standards of justice.”

Earlier this month, some congressional representatives from Arizona and Texas proposed amendments to the trafficking act, and President Barack Obama signaled his support for making changes that would expedite the deportation process. The debate in Congress has sparked protests nationwide, including in Los Angeles.

While some activists lobby for political reform, others show solidarity and support by fasting as they camp inside a white tent at La Plaza Olvera in Downtown L.A.

“America is the land of immigrants. That’s how it has always been. Why should it change now?” said Edgar Gonzalez, a 22-year-old who’s been drinking only water for five days.

Click play to hear more personal stories of these protestors:

Click play to hear the story of an 11-year-old who fled gang violence in Honduras after witnessing shoot-outs in his neighborhood.

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