Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
According to recent comments in the Bulletin, a lot of people in our area think that the “problem” of Central American children migrating in huge numbers across U.S. borders should be solved by simply sending them back to where they came from. After all, the argument goes, we already have enough needy children here who deserve to be better taken care of.
Allow me to state a few chilling facts with you about this pitiful crisis that help explain why in the world they are coming here in the first place. Contrary to what many assume, it’s not because they or their parents believe they will get amnesty or a “free pass;” it’s because of horrific violence, a breakdown of the rule of law, extreme economic necessity and hope for family reunification. Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, for example, lead the world in homicide rates, drug cartels are in operational control of many areas, many neighborhoods are now under the authority of street gangs, corrupt police forces have no accountability and have been known to engage in extra-judicial killings. In these countries, due to an unreliable legal system, only 1% of crime is ever prosecuted. Increasingly, a child’s fate is in the hands of criminal elements.
Gang members have been known to infiltrate schools and force children to either join their ranks or risk violent retributions to them and their families. That means that in these countries a parent’s decision to keep a child at home is more dangerous than risking the journey to another country. And why, pray tell, are things in such a mess in these countries? Look no farther than U.S. economic policies in Central America that displace workers from their jobs and advance the interests of giant seed corporations like Monsanto over the food security needs of the people. Or consider U.S. foreign policy that continues to send hundreds of millions of dollars to countries with corrupt police forces committing documented unlawful killing, kidnappings, assault, rape, extortion and corruption. Or think about the fact that in spite of millions of U.S. dollars going toward the “war on drugs,” the situation in the region has only gotten worse. The escalation of violence and the stranglehold of narco-traffickers are largely bi-products of a failing economy and corrupt governments which, may I remind you, are subsidized in one way or other by the United States.
And as if that weren’t enough, in June of 2009 the Honduran military, which receives substantial training and support from the U.S., overthrew the democratically elected President because of his anti-poverty initiatives. Amazingly, U.S. dollars continue to flow to the Honduran government which is implicated in killings and threats to human rights defenders, labor leaders, journalists, and indigenous leaders who are defending the rights to their land.
So let me ask you, could you honestly look any one of these migrant children in the eye and tell them to turn around and go back to where they came from? Could you look their parents in the eye and say, “Sorry, we’ve got enough problems of our own”? Connect the dots, folks, because for decades now, our elected leaders have not.
Mary Ann Hills