Due to the rumor-turned-myth that underage children enjoy immigration preferences in the United States, a tide of Central American children has begun to cross the US southern border. The reality that drives them to do so is their sense of being trapped within their home countries between gang violence and a cruel poverty. Facing that combination of circumstances, they decide to risk their lives traveling alone from their towns through Mexico to cross into the United States. They suffer all kinds of abuse from the gangs that live from extorting them during the trip on the freight train named The Beast, and the fortunate ones who manage to get past the wall at the border are captured immediately.
Not only is the rumor of immigration advantages for minors false, but the laws do not recognize persecution by the gangs as a valid reason to obtain refugee status.
So dramatic has the situation become that activists have petitioned the United Nations to declare a humanitarian emergency crisis at that border.
On Friday, June 19, 2014, a group of 61 representatives of the Democratic Party delivered to President Obama a letter requesting additional funds for assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to address the problem of this children’s migration. The letter explains that, in the first eight months of 2014 alone, 47,107 children were arrested on U.S. territory; of them, 73% were from the three mentioned countries and 25% from Mexico.
The legislators maintain that the simple capture and deportation of those children is no solution to the problem. They propose that the additional funds be spent on solving the problem at its roots within the countries of origin. However, what they identify as the roots of the problem is questionable. They ask that programs of the State Department and USAID invest in the areas of economic development, prevention of juvenile gangs, and reintegration of the deported minors into El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. ¿What, then, are the roots of the problem in those nations?
At issue are three eminently agricultural countries that have signed free trade agreements with the United States, on which this world power imposed governments, laws, and models of production so abusive that they were reduced to banana and coffee territories of U.S. transnational corporations. More aid for economic development, through the same institutions that intervened in those countries to create the current conditions, and under the same abusive model of production, could mean simply more production for the transnational corporations and the same exploitation for the rural worker who does the work for them.
Given that this is a humanitarian emergency, I applaud the initiative of the Democrats in opposition to the simple repression and deportation proposed by the Republicans. Nonetheless, I suggest that the United States this time provide its assistance without using it as a duct to intervene politically in those countries in favor of the Right. The true roots of this humanitarian crisis go back to the history of U.S. impositions on those peoples. That is why, in order to solve the problem at its roots, the United States should begin by stopping its boycott of nationalist governments so that they can carry out true agrarian reforms that return the land to the rural workers and allow them to organize productively in a new model of production that is more inclusive and just.
I believe that if the true roots of the problem are taken into account, it would become self-evident that those countries need justice more than assistance: they need to regain sovereignty over their territories and governments in order to be able to build more-dignified conditions of life for their present and future generations.