NACLA article co-written with Marna Shorack and Amelia Frank-Vitale published 5 November

Marna Shorack, Amelia Frank-Vitale and I interviewed police, fiscales and forensic officials in Honduras to write this article about widespread mistrust, particularly even among authorities. It’s part of an amazing NACLA issue focused on root issues in the region. To read it, here is the information for our article:

Shorack, M., Kennedy, E. and Frank-Vitale, A. 2020. A State of Mistrust. NACLA 5 November <https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10714839.2021.1840168?journalCode=rnac20&gt;.

And the link to the whole NACLA issue: https://nacla.org/news/2020/11/05/dispossession-resistance-solidarity-central-america

Quoted in San Diego Union Tribune article by Kate Morrissey on 11 October

Morrissey, Kate. 2020. A legitimate fear of death doesn’t always matter in the US asylum system. The San Diego Union-Tribune 11 October <https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2020-10-11/us-asylum-system-gang-violence-honduras&gt;.

Elizabeth Kennedy, a social scientist based in Honduras, said it can be difficult for people from the United States to understand the lack of government presence in areas under gang control in Honduras and other Central American countries.

In these places, gangs often become a parallel or replacement authority with tight control over movement, business transactions and more.

Kennedy was the lead researcher on a Human Rights Watch report on hundreds of deportees who were killed or otherwise harmed in El Salvador, often by the people they had fled.

She said many of the report’s findings apply to Honduras, where she has done similar research. Villanueva’s neighborhood [in Choloma] is a prime example, she said.

“It’s not just a gang problem or even a cartel problem,” Kennedy said. “It’s a fundamental state problem.”

Children drop out of school because their families cannot afford to pay the costs of uniforms and supplies. The government provides a very limited number of teachers. If communities want more, they have to pay the salaries themselves.

To Kennedy, the researcher based in Honduras, these conditions are a sign that the government is “not paying attention to its people.”

“That level of poverty should not exist in the 21st century,” Kennedy said. “That level of poverty gives way to a lot of criminal groups that otherwise wouldn’t exist.”

Quoted in International Bar Association article by Rupert Knox on 1 May

Knox, Rupert. 2020. The US asylum system returning Central Americans to danger. International Bar Association 1 May <https://www.ibanet.org/Article/NewDetail.aspx?ArticleUid=1C8BD1F0-3F62-4685-BE2B-729779FF585B&gt;.

The refusal to recognise the dangers faced by many returnees is not limited to the US – Canada, Mexico and European nations continue to deport Salvadorans. The Government of El Salvador has also largely ignored the fate of deportees, often stigmatising them as presumed criminals. Elizabeth Kennedy, the former researcher on El Salvador for HRW and co-author of the report, notes that the Salvadoran Foreign Minister’s public response to the report ‘exemplified that they intend to continue viewing deportees as criminals and frankly people undeserving of protection’.

Kennedy also says that US authorities, at least publicly, did not respond to the report’s findings. …

Kennedy is now independently researching the situation in Honduras. Gang violence, high-crime neighbourhoods, security force abuses and institutional weakness create a similar cocktail of impunity and lack of protection. The same factors drive many Hondurans to try to reach the US and claim asylum. Just as in El Salvador, most are deported, and face the same stigma and threat to life on return, often feeling compelled to try to reach the US again.

The increasing obstacles to Central Americans claiming asylum in the US started before Trump and the Covid-19 crisis, but as Kennedy says, this ‘[Trump] administration has gone step by step taking apart what little hope and guarantees existed’.

Quoted in The Guardian article by Jeff Ernst on 12 March

Ernst, Jeff. 2020. US migrant deportations risk spreading coronavirus to Central America. The Guardian 12 March <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/12/us-migrant-deportations-coronavirus-central-america&gt;.

“Those countries [in Central America, primarily El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, receiving mass deportations from Mexico and the United States] need to be reviewing a moratorium on deportations right now in light of this illness,” said Elizabeth Kennedy, a migration expert based in Central America.

Quoted in PRI The World article by Jorge Valencia on 13 February

Valencia, Jorge. 2020. ICE deported a trans asylum-seeker. She was killed in El Salvador. PRI’s The World 13 February <https://www.pri.org/stories/2020-02-13/ice-deported-trans-asylum-seeker-she-was-killed-el-salvador&gt;.

“This is a very inconvenient topic because El Salvador doesn’t want to admit that they’re not protecting their citizens,” said Elizabeth Kennedy, the study’s lead researcher. “And the United States doesn’t want to know, either, because it is in violation of national and international law.”

Quoted in Daily Caller Fact Check by Bradley Sylvester on 11 February

Sylvester, Bradley. 2020. Fact Check: Was a ‘huge percentage’ of deported Salvadorans killed or harmed upon return to El Salvador? The Daily Caller 11 February <https://checkyourfact.com/2020/02/11/fact-check-daily-beast-deported-salvadorans-killed-harmed-percentage/&gt;.

Elizabeth Kennedy, the primary researcher of the Human Rights Watch report, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that such a percentage “cannot be calculated” from the report.

“The only way an accurate percentage could be calculated is for one of the two governments involved to either follow up with all persons returned or with a representative sample of all persons returned for at least several months,” Kennedy explained in an email. “Neither the U.S., El Salvador, nor any of the other 20+ nations who have deported Salvadorans have done this, as our report makes clear in several places.”