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Protesters demand more legal rights for unaccompanied children

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A group of about 30 human rights protesters used six words on Thursday to demand more legal rights for thousands of children arriving at the border:

WASHINGTON – A group of about 30 human rights protesters used six words on Thursday to demand more legal rights for thousands of children arriving at the border:

“Obama, Obama: Don’t send the kids back.”

The protest was held on a sidewalk in front of the White House and was organized by human rights group Amnesty International. Protesters, ranging from small children to adults, demanded that President Barack Obama stop deporting children back to Central America.

“We cannot send the children back. They are coming from crisis. They need help,” Gerry Rivadeneira, 20, a student at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., said.

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Gerry Rivadeneira, far left, 20, a student at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., leads a protest in from of the White House Thursday. She said that the thousands of unaccompanied children arriving at the border deserve more legal rights. SHFWire photo by Anna GilesClick on photo to enlarge or download: Gerry Rivadeneira, far left, 20, a student at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., leads a protest in from of the White House Thursday. She said that the thousands of unaccompanied children arriving at the border deserve more legal rights. SHFWire photo by Anna GilesEarlier this month Obama requested $3.7 billion in aid to help the government cope with thousands of children arriving at the border – most of whom are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Violence and lack of job opportunities in these countries are the main reasons  children are fleeing, according to human rights advocates.

Republican lawmakers blame the administration’s immigration policies.

The administration has been looking for ways to make the deportation process more efficient. Rivadeneira, who led nearly all of the chants at the protest, said this is wrong.

“President Obama can protect these children. We don’t want him to send them back,” she said.

Margaret Huang, deputy executive director of Amnesty International, said the children deserve more legal rights and that the process of apprehending them should be more humane.

Many of the recent influx of women and children have been turning themselves into border agents as soon as they arrive on U.S. soil, hoping they can stay with relatives.

“I don’t think we should only be looking at this as a national security crisis. I think we have to look at this as a humanitarian crisis and possibly as a refugee crisis,” Huang said.

Reach reporter Anna Giles at anna.giles@scripps.com or 202-326-9861. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.

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