On Friday afternoon, as President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met at the White House with the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to discuss the increasing numbers of Central American children crossing the border into the United States, activists gathered outside to call on the US government to take responsibility for its role in causing this crisis, to respect the children’s legal and human rights and prioritize family reunification in the United States.
Activists from Washington DC-based immigrant service groups, Central American policy and human rights organizations, and religious groups chanted “When migrant children are under attack, what do you do? Stand up, fight back!” and held signs that read “Protect refugees of failed US policies” and “CAFTA + CARSI = Forced Migration,” in reference to the US-Central American Free Trade Agreement and the US-funded Central American Regional Security Initiative.
This year alone 57,000 unaccompanied migrant children have been detained at the US-Mexico border, with about 75% of them coming from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Most of them are fleeing situations of extreme violence and trying to reunite with a parent who came to the US in the past decade due to a lack of economic opportunities at home.
Speakers at the protest highlighted how US-pushed economic policies like privatizations and free trade destroyed local Central American economies, forcing many of the children’s parents to migrate and fostering conditions for street gangs to take root in impoverished communities. Arturo Viscarra from School of the Americas Watch explained how militarized security policies that are part of the US-sponsored War on Drugs have only made narco-violence worse and empowered human rights abusing military and security forces in Guatemala and Honduras. He also denounced the role of the Obama administration in legitimizing the 2009 coup d’états in Honduras that has ushered in an era of violent repression against community activists and journalists, giving Honduras the highest murder rate in the world.
Jacob Blickenov of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) called on the Obama administration and the US Congress to “recognize that immigrants, especially the children making the dangerous journey, are refugees of failed US policies,” and lamented the fact that the Obama administration has tried to undermine the poverty eradication programs of the Salvador Sánchez Cerén administration in El Salvador in order to promote corporate interests.
In his meeting with the Central American presidents, Obama affirmed that most of the children will be deported and proposed a program that would allow Honduran children to apply for refugee status in their home countries before making the perilous migrant journey. Officials say approximately 1,000-2,000 children might be eligible for refugee status under this program, a very small percentage of the tens of thousands that are fleeing their homes, meaning the program would unlikely curb the massive flow of migrant children.
Legislative proposals to address the crisis focus on more funding for border enforcement and regional militarized security programs as well as plans to fast track the children’s deportations. Those present at the demonstration were encouraged to call the White House and their elected representatives in Congress to tell them not to reverse the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 which guarantees all detained immigrant children the right to a trial with legal representation, as proposed, and to fund health and human services initiatives in Central America, rather than border and regional militarization efforts.
The action was sponsored by CISPES, School of the Americas Watch, the Washington Peace Center, the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission and the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN). Click here to download a statement from CISPES, School of the Americas Watch and the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission on the migrant children crisis.
Take action today to stop the US government from manipulating development aid to promote the interests of Big Agra and seed-selling giants like Monsanto at the expense of El Salvador’s farmers and the millions of families they support. Sign the petition to US Secretary of State John Kerry today!
By 2009, El Salvador, along with many other countries in the developing world, was facing a food crisis. After years of corporate-driven agricultural and free trade policies, over 75% of corn and 85% of beans – the country’s primary dietary staples – were being imported, rather than grown domestically.
In 2011, El Salvador launched the Family Agriculture Plan to support small-scale farmers living in poverty and promote national food sovereignty. The program includes the purchase of locally-produced, non-GMO corn and bean seeds for family farmers to cultivate and sell on the domestic market. The Family Agriculture Plan has led to record harvests in 2012 and 2013 – local corn and bean seed production is now able to meet the country’s demand.
In April, the US Embassy in El Salvador announced that El Salvador must allow foreign corporations to bid on the same seed contracts currently offered to local producers in order to receive $277 million in development aid from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
Take action today to stop the US government from manipulating development aid to promote the interests of Big Agra and seed-selling giants like Monsanto at the expense of El Salvador’s farmers and the millions of families they support.
Revolutionary Supper Club – April 19 at 5:30 p.m.
The event provides an opportunity to talk with some of our very own elections observers, as well as several longtime Latin America solidarity companer@s.
We’re excited about the recent victory of FMLN president-elect Salvador Sánchez Cerén. The election of Sánchez Cerén, a former comandante and union militant, is a great sign that El Salvador’s radical transformation will continue.
Please join us for good food, time with good friends and a celebration of the strength of the Salvadoran social movement!
When: April 19, 5:30 p.m.
Where: 2821 2nd Ave. Seattle, WA 98121
Cost: $20-35 per plate, sliding scale
May Day – May 1
Faced with this blatant attack on workers’ rights and El Salvador’s sovereignty, join us in marching to demand an end to unjust economic policies that drive down wages and living standards across the Americas.
Solidarity Cycle – June 21-22
This event is open to all members of the community who are interested in going on a beautiful bike ride while supporting the rights of Salvadoran public sector workers.
We’re looking forward to seeing you soon.