With Oscar Chacon of Alianza Americas, Carlos Dada of El Faro, and Esther Lopez of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), we spoke to press about continuing conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Below, I include the press release. This was one of the first in a series of events coordinated across the nation by Alianza Americas. Read more about that here: http://www.alianzaamericas.org.
Experts, Advocates Discuss Consequences of Obama Administration’s Conflicting Policy Toward Central America
Travel Advisories, In-Country Refugee Processing At Odds With Ramped Up Immigration Raids
Washington, DC—This afternoon, human rights, foreign policy, and labor experts gathered on a press call to parse through the increasingly complicated developments regarding the Obama administration’s policy toward Central America and treatment of recent immigrants from the region. As violence in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras has increased in recent months, the Obama Administration has taken several steps to acknowledge this uptick in violence as well as protect Americans living and working in the region. These precautions—travel advisories, suspension of Peace Corps operations in El Salvador, and most notably the expansion of in-country refugee processing—are entirely at odds with the administration’s recent immigration raids aimed at deporting women and children back to this very same region.
Experts discussed these inconsistencies and their dangerous implications for Central American refugees fleeing the region, as well as those already in the United States. Listen to a recording of today’s call here.
Oscar Chacón, Executive Director of Alianza Americas said, “We are indeed dealing with a humanitarian crisis in Central America. And it is one that we are not responding appropriately to. Instead, we are rounding people up and sending them back. In light of what we know about the region, this amounts to sending people back to their death. The Administration needs to reconsider their current policy approach. The real question is, are we going to protect, or are we going to deport, those whose countries are in no condition to take them back?”
Said Carlos Dada, former editor of El Salvador’s El Faro, “Central Americans are fleeing from places controlled by criminal organizations, where the presence of the state is almost non-existent. The crisis is not at the southern border, the crisis is what immigrants who reach the border are fleeing from. They are running away from extreme violence and—in El Salvador in particular—if you want to keep your children safe, if you want to see them become adults, there is no deterring you from trying to leave the place where your life is threatened, and provide a better future for your family. ”
Added, Esther Lopez, UFCW International Executive Vice President and member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, “Our labor delegation traveled to Honduras to examine the crisis facing thousands of refugee children and their families – the evidence is overwhelming: widespread labor and human rights violations, crime, repression, violence and corruption threaten and kill children and families – the U.S. immigration system fails to protect Central American refugees from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. We must demand protection not deportation from our government.”
Elizabeth Kennedy a researcher at San Diego State University and UC Santa Barbara, said “The World Health Organization classifies a homicide rate higher than 10 per 100,000 as an epidemic, every bit as harmful to children, mothers, fathers and their communities as diseases like Ebola, swine flu, or Zika. El Salvador finished 2015 with a rate of 103, Honduras with a rate of 57, and Guatemala with a rate of 30. Parts of each country have double the national rate. These homicide rates are among the highest in the world—including war zones. El Salvador’s rate is second only to Syria’s. Honduras’ is in the top five, and Guatemala’s is in the top 20. Thus, the intensity of violence is beyond minimal. It is epidemic. This is an armed conflict… I’ve seen the look of many kids, moms, dads, brothers, sisters and friends who cannot sleep through the night, because they are unsure they’ll live through it. I’ve heard the whispers of people who don’t know who they can trust and believe that walls, streets, and alleys have ears. I’ve spoken to a man who told me he’d be fine after his deportation and was then murdered. To families who have fled six times in the country only to be found by the group threatening them. To boys who were beat not by gangs, but by police or military. These are refugees and they need our help.”