BY GUEST BLOGGER | July 16, 2014
written by: Shaina Aber, Policy Director, U.S. Jesuit Conference Social & International Ministries
Over the last several weeks I have noted from conversations and e-mails in response to our Jesuit Advocates action alert that the Ignatian Family is dismayed and alarmed by the rhetoric coming from Secretary Johnson and the White House, attributing the rising numbers of children fleeing harm to due process protections enacted as part of the TVPRA. Our universities, and ministries share a close relationship with the Central American Jesuits which has its roots in the assassination of six Jesuits and their housekeeper at the University of Central America in El Salvador in 1989 by Salvadoran troops some trained by our government in Fort Benning , Georgia. It was out of this tragedy that Jesuit ministries began to intentionally partner with our Central American counter-parts, a relationship that continues to this day. We have been tracking the changing migration pattern from the Northern Triangle since 2010 and it was indeed no surprise to us that numbers of children fleeing violence have risen over the last several years – we first noted the shift in violence trends in the region in 2006 and then witnessed the fall out of the 2009 coup in Honduras which indeed impacted the security situation in the entire region (which is the size of two and a half Tennessees).
On a personal note as someone who works regularly with Honduran Jesuits and lay-colleagues, and has visited the vacant neighborhoods, besieged schools and communities in San Pedro, Progreso, and Teguz, I’m shocked by the choices my government is currently making. I expect better.
The deportation flight to Honduras on July 14th of seventeen young mothers with their children was greeted with much fanfare with the Honduran first lady, a luxury bus, and armed police escorts greeting the girls, boys and women at the airport and transporting them to the orange tents erected as temporary shelters.
What we are concerned about is what happens after the cameras are turned off and the crowds go away. Who will monitor the fate of these families and children deported to the world’s most violent city? Jesuit and lay partners in Honduras reported that even the NGOs that have an interest in monitoring and working with the families do not have the capacity to do follow-up with all of them. I dearly hope (but sincerely doubt) that the U.S. government’s decisions are being informed not just by political expediency, or by a government with a very troubling human rights record but also by civil society organizations on the ground and by our moral and legal obligations.
The child murder rate in Honduras has risen rapidly over the several months of the Juan Orlando Hernandez administration with murders of children and youth spiking from 70 per a month during the Lobo Administration to a staggering 90 per a month in the first three months of the Hernandez administration. May saw 102 children and youth slain. Grisly killings are attributed to gangs (children’s bodies – young children between the ages of 2 and 13 have been found in communities bearing signs of torture, nine children appeared in a San Pedro neighborhood in May, bound and gagged, their skin half-peeled from their faces). In San Pedro we have very credible reports of vigilante death squads composed of off-duty police officers going into poor communities and picking off children.
Who will hold the U.S. accountable for a rush to deport the most vulnerable? Who will hold Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador governments accountable for the harms facing children and youth throughout poor communities where the governments have at best been forced to cede control to criminal actors and at worst are complicit in the targeting of children?