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Refugee claims of migrant children must be taken seriously [Letter]

I was distressed and saddened by Ellen Sauerbrey's letter published on July 24, regarding unaccompanied minors entering the United States from Central America ("Sauerbrey: Undocumented children at the border are not 'refugees'". Ms. Sauerbrey writes that "the thousands of people pouring into the U.S. today are not refugees."

Such a sweeping statement is irresponsible and disappointing to read from a former official whose responsibilities included protection of refugees and vulnerable migrants around the world. Like Ms. Sauerbrey, I served as assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration. And also like Ms. Sauerbrey, I worked very closely with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). On March 12, that organization released a study concluding "no less than 58 percent of 404 children interviewed were forcibly displaced because they suffered or faced harms that indicated a potential or actual need for international protection." In other words, most of these kids have refugee claims. If they were my children, I'd want those claims to be considered very carefully.

Eric Schwartz, Minneapolis

The writer is the dean of the Hubert Humphrey School of School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, and is on the board of the HIAS, the global Jewish agency that protects refugees.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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