"Everywhere here is dangerous. There is no security. They kill people all the time. It's a sin to be young in Honduras".
-Isaias Sosa, who made two failed attempts to enter the U.S.
To make things worse, many in Congress support a quick deportation of the children, who are already here by rolling back the key protections provided by the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, which prohibits the immediate deportation of Central American children threatened by violence.
Preserving those protections is important because these children, who do not understand our legal process, are often unable to articulate their fear within the 48 hours CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officers have to do the screening. Most of the time, these interviews result in generic answers and miss important information that would make a child eligible for Special Juvenile Immigration Status. This acceleration would also make access to legal counsel virtually impossible.
Forcing these children to stay in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador or deporting them back are terrible ideas. They will still be in danger. Until those dangers in Central America are mitigated, where-else can they go?
According to Daniel Groody, a Holy Cross priest, who is an Associate Professor of Theology and the Director of the Center for Latino Spirituality at the University of Notre Dame, “The situation of these migrants cannot be understood in the narrow, partisan terms of U.S. political theater. Honduras is a failed state, El Salvador and Guatemala are failing states and Mexico is a falling state. This is why the most vulnerable of their populations are seeking refuge elsewhere. … Most are not criminals and should be given applicable protection under international and domestic law.
But there is another kind of failed state. It is the failed state of mind and heart that thinks we have no responsibility to these children. Pope Francis condemns the “globalization of indifference,” our having so normalized the suffering of others that we have lost the capacity to weep, to suffer with victims and respond with compassion. As one worker in El Salvador put it, “If the migrant is not your brother or sister, then God is not your father.”
The Society issued two Action Alerts recently, calling for the care and protection of these children, for their right to due process and for addressing the root causes of their plight, particularly violence, in their home countries.
The first one came from Sheila Gilbert, our National President on July 22:
The second one came from the entire US Vincentian family. See link in the next article.
If you have not sent a message to your elected officials at that time, please do it now.
Perhaps, some do not believe that these dangers are real. According to the Los Angeles Times, in Honduras, the San Pedro Sula morgue reported 594 homicides just in the surrounding northwestern region as of mid-July of this year. There were 778 people slain last year. Some of these were children sent back from the US.
The July OUT OF POVERTY… Voice of the Poor newsletter reported three stories of children escaping violence in Central America, shared by Bishop Seitz, during his testimony at the hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.
You can still read these stories on the July Newsletter at:
In general, life is very dangerous in places where people cannot count on their local police for protection, because of widespread corruption.
Even just across the border, south of us, this is happening. Father Sean Carroll, SJ, Director of the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported:
“On Thursday, July 10, 2014, at 11:00pm, Sonoran State Police officers entered the La Roca Shelter without a search warrant; twenty migrants were staying there (eighteen from Central America and two from Mexico) along with the family who runs the facility. The officers threatened the migrants and robbed them of their money and belongings. After the police left, the crime was reported to police officials in Nogales, Sonora. Forty minutes later, the same police officers returned and told the migrants that they knew that a call had been made and the officers then threatened the migrants again and took a photo of the face of each person. Needless to say, the migrants along with the married couple who runs the shelter and their six children were all traumatized by the experience.
The following morning, migrants who had been staying at La Roca shelter came to the Kino Border Initiative's migrant outreach center in Nogales, Sonora to seek our assistance. The KBI responded by helping the migrants file a complaint with local federal authorities and by sending a letter to various Mexican authorities to demand that a thorough investigation be done of this incident. We requested that protection be granted to the migrants, to the family running La Roca shelter, and to us who were defending their human rights. We also asked that human rights training be provided to government agencies to keep this incident from happening again.
Since the incident, the Sonoran State Police have sent an official to investigate the crime, however, the migrant victims and the family who runs the shelter have left Nogales out of fear for their safety. We will continue working with the Mexican authorities so that there is justice for the people affected and to make sure incidents like this one do not happen again”.
As you can see from all of these examples, to feel safe, the only alternative people have is to leave. What else could they do? The situation is true across much of Central America!