Influx of Child Immigrants Strains Courts in Louisiana…Time

I worked for a non-profit legal services organization in 1986-87 in Oakdale, Louisiana that was providing representation to Central American refugees imprisoned at the detention center in that small Louisiana town. At that time, there were practically no lawyers in Louisiana who had immigration law experience and almost none who spoke Spanish.  Even the court interpreters at the immigration court inside the prison in Oakdale were deficient in Spanish. I listened to several hours of one recorded court hearing and wrote an affidavit noting the mistakes made by the court appointed translator for one of our clients from El Salvador. His asylum claim had been denied and the bad translation was one of factors used in his appeal.

Now it seems that Oakdale is the main source of immigration judges and lawyers in the state of Louisiana. The lack of due process for refugee children is one of the most disturbing aspects of the recent crisis. -Molly

Influx of Child Immigrants Strains Courts in Louisiana (TIME)

Churches Join Together For Refugee Families…Presbyterian Church-USA

At the links are two articles on the efforts of different churches in El Paso joining their efforts to help the refugee families from Central America… Now most of these people–mostly women with young children–are being held in detention centers set up at the Border Patrol Training facility in Artesia, NM and at several military bases in Texas, Arizona and California…  By imprisoning these people, they will have practically NO access to attorneys who can advise them of their rights to apply for asylum or other relief from quick deportation…

Grace For Refugees From Central America

Refugees From Central America Provide ‘Gifts’ Of Grace

Innocent Children And Voracious Oligarchs…Joaquin Villalobos In El Pais

There is a lot to argue with in this opinion piece by Joaquin Villalobos published in El Pais (Spain). I recommend a close read and I’ve provided a quick translation below the original posted here. -molly

Niños Inocentes Y Oligarcas Voraces (Joaquin Villalobos – El Pais)

The story below is translated without permission by Molly Molloy.

Innocent children and voracious oligarchs

Joaquin Villalobos 12 jul 2014
El Pais

The prolonged social and security crisis in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador has already become an unprecedented humanitarian emergency. Tens of thousands of children are fleeing north along a route 3,000 kilometers long and plagued by dangers. The fundamental cause of this crisis resides in the brutally extractive economies that dominate in these countries. Six million migrants from these countries—making up 12% of Guatemalans, 14% of Hondurans and nearly 40% of Salvadorans—live in the United States. In the last 20 years, these Central Americans have sent the fabulous sum of $124 billion dollars in remittances to their countries. Exporting poor people has become the most lucrative business of the local oligarchs.

The debate over this crisis has focused on its consequences rather than its causes. There is talk about Mexico’s responsibilities for the threats along the route, or the delays in Immigration Reform in the United States and of organized crime generated by Colombian cocaine. But the problem is that remittances have strengthened the extractive economic model and created an artificially financed consumer economy whose earnings end up in the coffers of the dominant/ruling families of each country.  Just as petroleum profits generate wealth with little effort, remittance income deforms economies, undermines incentives to produce, multiplies the riches of the oligarchs, creates inequality of tragic proportions, destroys families and communities and generates social and criminal violence on a grand scale.

Imports to El Salvador are valued at about $8.5 billion dollars annually and remittances pay for half of these imported goods and services. Giant shopping centers multiply while agriculture has been abandoned. The economy has not grown in 20 years resulting in chronic unemployment and massive emigration of the population.  Coyotes (people smugglers) drive the economy and criminal gangs govern poor barrios. Honduras and Guatemala have joined this model. The rich capture the remittances, using them to supplement their consumption and then send the profits out of their countries, transforming themselves into regional and global businessmen.

The wealthy families of these countries have investments in Florida, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Just one of them invested $250 million dollars in a tourist complex in the Dominican Republic. There are no objective reasons for the Guatemalan, Honduran and Salvadoran rich to invest in their own countries, nor to strive to reduce emigration. The dangers of the journey and the massive deportations of migrants are simply transportation risks for them and the (temporary) return of their merchandise. Remittances have made them much richer than when they were only landlords.

According to statistics from the consultant Wealth-X, in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador there are 610 super-rich individuals possessing $80 billion dollars. Among them they control most of the $12 billion dollars in remittances that come every year from the United States. In comparison to the wealth of these oligarchs, the $3.7 billion dollars proposed by President Obama to confront the emergency looks absurd.

Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are falling into a vicious circle connecting remittances with violence. More emigration, more remittances; more remittances, less productivity; less productivity, more unemployment; more unemployment, more violence; more violence, more emigration. Criminal gangs grow out of the exponential multiplication of dysfunctional families and the destruction of the familial, social and communal fabric, leading to emigration. Gangs dominate many neighborhoods and communities and affect the poor almost exclusively with extortion rackets on everyone, even newspaper sellers. According to the small-business guild in El Salvador, 90% of micro-businesses pay extortion. In the capital of Honduras, 1,600 small businesses closed due to violence in 2012 alone. Emigration is a violent social catastrophe for the poor and a big business for the rich.

Public security doesn’t matter to the rich in these three countries because they protect themselves with private security—the police are few and poorly paid. The rich have created their own private city in Guatemala called Paseo Cayala. It is a walled-in area of 14 hectares with all services provided inside the walls—a world apart from crime and insecurity. Private security firms in Guatemala employ 125,000 men while the police have just 22,000. At the same time, it is the Latin American country that sells the most armored cars per capita. Guatemala has 406 registered private airplanes and 142 private helicopters—one of the largest private air fleets on the continent.

The rich of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have become completely insensitive to the reality around them. Protected by their own security guards, they pay hunger salaries, they do not invest in their own countries and they resist paying taxes. They are fans of the idea of weak and rickety states which can rely on external investments to resolve problems. In 2011, Honduras created a program called “Honduras Open for Business” that was supposed to give away land in exchange for foreigner managing the state’s business. Three years after the initiation of the program no investors have arrived since Honduras happens to be the most violent country in the world. Salvadoran businessmen now want to copy this failure.

We cannot blame the United States, Mexico or cocaine for this crisis. Why are there no Costa Rican, Nicaraguan and Panamanian children fleeing to el norte? Despite their own problems of inequality, revolutionary Nicaragua, Keynesian Costa Rica and Torrijos’ Panama based on the recovery of the Canal, have continued to grow their economies, attract tourists and foreign investment and suffer no great security crises. And in the cases of Panama and Costa Rica, they do not expel, but rather have a demand for, workers. Panama receives remittances of $214 million dollars and pays out $374 million. If China moves forward with canal construction in Nicaragua, the three southern countries of Central America will become a powerful center of development while the three of the northern triangle will end up drowning.

In 2011, Guatemala hosted a summit of the presidents of Central America with the United States, Mexico and the European Union. On this occasion, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the businessmen of the region: “The rich of each country should pay fair taxes. Security should not be financed by the poor.” It is clear that the main generator of the current emergency is the voracity of the Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Honduran oligarchs. This humanitarian emergency is not an earthquake producing dead and injured victims. It is the extractive economic model that is creating refugees. Without a doubt we must act in solidarity with these innocent children who are fleeing, but the oligarchs must be pressured and sanctioned. Mexican and U.S. donors should not have to assume the costs of this emergency—this would be the equivalent of subsidizing the mansions, yachts and private jets of those guilty of causing the crisis.

Joaquin Villalobos was a Salvadoran guerrilla and is currently a consultant in international conflict resolution.

Honduran President Wants a ‘Plan Colombia’ for Central America…Panamerican Post

By all means, let’s INCREASE military and security payouts to corrupt military and police in Central American countries.  Remember that the murder rate in Ciudad Juarez exploded to nearly 300 homicides per 100,000 people AFTER the Plan Merida inspired military surge into the state of Chihuahua…  Honduras already has a murder rate of 100… And the city of San Pedro Sula’s murder rate approaches 200.  More guns, helicopters and training for police who already are experts at torture thanks to US military advisers and they may surpass Mexico in murderousness. The victims?  Poor people. The result? An ever greater EXODUS of refugees showing up at the border. -molly

Honduran President Wants a ‘Plan Colombia’ for Central America (Pan-American Post)

Elite Honduran Unit Works To Stop Flow Of Child Emigrants To U.S…Bortac In Honduras

Excellent report from Cindy Carcamo in Honduras for the LATimes below. She also gave an interview on THE WORLD:

Elite Honduran unit works to stop flow of child emigrants to U.S. (LA Times)

This special security unit went from targeting drug smugglers to spotting unaccompanied kids (The World)

For those who have read Todd Miller’s book, Border Patrol Nation, this story about US trained and funded border police in Honduras will not be a surprise.  I assume that the Obama funding request considers this kind of program in Central America a valuable contribution. There seems to be no awareness in US policy circles about the extreme levels of corruption in the military and police units we supply and train in Mexico and Central America.  Expect more violence–robbery, rape, beatings, extortion–toward the desperate people trying to flee conditions in their countries. But do not expect to see much coverage of it in the US press. -molly

Border Reflection & Debunking Myths

Listera Kathy Nicodemus sent this reflection (posted with permission) on the current border situation and below is an excellent article by David Bacon published in IN THESE TIMES with details on how US economic and security policies have exacerbated the situation that forces people to flee their homes in Central America. -molly

Border Reflection – Support Non-violent solutions in Central American Countries. My thoughts on the Central American immigrant-refugee situation at the moment.

We need to deal with the immediate need, however, if we don’t deal with the systemic issues, the situation will only continue. First we need to stop contributing our (US) part- Corporations that use the land, cheap labor (including Maquilas), our cheap products sold to these countries (taking away their ability to make a living). Need to stop-Selling weapons, supporting bad leaders, US need for drugs. I know there are many other issues. What might be of help–The US supporting these countries to be self-sustaining economically and non-violent.

Debunking 8 Myths About Why Central American Children Are Migrating (In These Times)

First Central American Immigrants To Arrive Thursday In Las Cruces…Sun News

A friend and I went by yesterday to volunteer. It is gratifying to see Las Cruces respond this way…and in contrast to some of the media-grabbing protests other places. Las Cruces is not a wealthy town, but in terms of helping those who have a hard road, we seem to come together. As someone said to me yesterday: “We have to respond to the moral issue now…”

I also recommend NPR’s reports from California and Guatemala on Morning Edition today. -Molly

First Central American immigrants to arrive Thursday in Las Cruces (Las Cruces Sun News)

Why Are Kids From Central America Risking Solo Travel To The U.S.? (NPR)

Dramatic Surge in the Arrival of Unaccompanied Children Has Deep Roots and No Simple Solutions

This is the single best explanation of the complex issues involved with the increase in unaccompanied minor children in migration. It includes data and a discussion of push and pull factors and the convergence of factors relating to the current situation. The explanation of the differing treatment of Mexican vs. Central American minors is the best I have seen, as is the explanation of the US laws pertaining to these groups. I really encourage everyone to read it: 

Also below is a brief report from Colorlines:


DHS Forms Interagency Group…Deportations: Bush v. Obama…

It is pretty pitiful for Goodlatte and his committee and the right wing media point to ““Word has gotten out around the world about President Obama’s lax immigration enforcement policies…” Ignoring the more than 2 million deported under the current administration… Note the article from The NEW REPUBLIC posted below comparing the numbers of people returned/removed/deported in the Bush and Obama administrations:

But, do any of these numbers mention the fact that in general, deportations have gone down because the overall numbers of people coming into the country, especially from Mexico, have gone down since the high point in the early-2000s, mainly due to the recession in the US economy. The New Republic article (and the general focus on comparing administrations) is meaningless without considering the numbers of people actually coming or not coming.

In terms of the increase in people coming from Central America, those numbers will always be smaller than the numbers coming from Mexico–the countries are much smaller:

Guatemala 15 million
Honduras 8 million
El Salvador 6.5 million…(also despite its small size, El Salvador is by far the most densely populated country in the region with more than 300 people per square mile)
Compare to Mexico at 123 million…(with population density of about 60 per square mile)

The journey is much more difficult, expensive and dangerous from Central America. Amnesty International has estimated that as many as 70,000 Central American immigrants have disappeared while traveling through Mexico in recent years.

Considering how the numbers of people, including children, are coming now from Central America, it seems clear that the conditions in those places are getting so desperate that the choice to leave becomes worth the risks. -molly

Refugees Coming To El Paso, More To Arizona…

June 7: Below are several more reports on the current numbers of Central American refugees entering the US. Though the AP story from last night (second in list below) says that people will continue to be sent to Arizona, ICE officials as well as some workers with the Catholic diocese refugee services and others in the religious communities serving immigrants in El Paso have said that buses and planes will begin bringing some of these people to El Paso starting today…

As for the reasons these folks are coming in such numbers, I believe that we cannot discount fact that people talk to each other along the route and these communications (true and otherwise) have some influence on the decisions people make. As far as the dangers they face traveling through Mexico, there is ample evidence that many migrants are killed or go missing along the way. There is no safe route (other than in a commercial flight which poor people cannot afford) across Mexico for these people, yet we know that in recent years more and more have attempted the journey despite the dangers.

There have been other large-scale movements of people from Central America into the US in past years…the kinds of movements that make it difficult or impossible for ICE to detain them all and so they will be released on condition that they report to immigration later.  Hurricane Mitch in 1998 for example caused large numbers of people to leave the region and many were given temporary protected status in the US:

People are now fleeing war-like conditions caused by criminal activities in the region and the government malfeasance. Poverty is at the root of why most people migrate and that is true in the current situation as well. molly

UPDATE (June 8): There is a lot of in-depth information in the report from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops trip to Central America in Nov 2013. This report was cited in a previous posting. I note that it does have links to some statistics from US authorities on the numbers of unaccompanied children apprehended in previous years. It is available here:

UPDATE (June 8): Apparently, there are at least 270–not 130–immigrants who have been flown to El Paso from the Rio Grande Valley. The situation is changing rapidly and according to a media person who wrote to me personally, the CBP officials are not giving many statements to reporters, but there should be updates tomorrow.

The Annunciation House press conference on the local faith community response will be Monday at 1:30 pm at CASA VIDES, 325 Leon Street in El Paso. molly