While a refugee crisis grows in Europe, here in the America’s child refugee, continue to flee Central America. Since the crisis erupted 14 months ago the U.S. has sent in aid to beef up police forces in Honduras and El Salvador, while intensifying border patrols in the U.S. It may appear that their efforts have tamped down the number of youth fleeing, but in reality women and babies are still taking off on the perilous journey only to be stopped in Mexico and turned back. In other words the situation was the same or worse for the children. It is only less of a “crisis” for US. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE). A new UN report uncovers the urgency of the situation.
The U.S. is directly implicated in creating the conditions that forced these children to flee their homes in Central America.
The Obama administration policy in Central America follows a tradition of gunboats and occupations a century ago; from decades of propping up dictators, training para-military forces and funding terrorists to the “free trade” agreements and Drug Wars of the post Cold War era. In all these periods, the goal remained the same: to protect U.S. corporations exploiting the region.
Policy motivations under Obama have been no different, but some conditions have changed.
In the last six years, mining companies — in a global race for new subsoil sources including gold, silver and titanium – an essential ingredient in all our cell phones and lap tops — have targeted the region.
While mining has never been a way to grow and diversify local economies unless unions are powerful, in this newest phase with new technologies corporations have found a way to touch down, extract, pollute and exit with advancing speed, leaving even less in the way of a tax base for infrastructure, or jobs to build community incomes.
It is for this reason that impoverished communities, especially in El Salvador, have rejected mining companies. It is in this context that Manuel Zelaya, President of Honduras from 2006 until his coup in 2009 – was considering legislation banning mining altogether in his country. This is one of the reasons the Obama administration backed his coup and worked hard – as Hillary Clinton boasted in her book Hard Choices – to make sure he would not return.
Zelaya was replaced by a corrupt right-wing regime, accelerating a wave of extreme violence in the country. It is no surprise then, that the majority of the unaccompanied children are from Honduras, the nation with the world’s highest murder rate. The reasons for violence in Honduras are multiple, but in all the U.S. is implicated. Free trade economics continued to ravage local economies leading people to resort to crime or immigration. The U.S-supported coup regime was infamous for state-sponsored violence, and massive corruption. Many of the gang leaders were deported from L.A. where they fled a decade ago – themselves the refugees of CAFTA. Together these factors created the crisis for Honduran children, who, if they defied gangs, faced murder or the dangerous trip to the border.
As we engage in protests of all sorts on many fronts, we can make connections: the criminalization of African American children in U.S. cities and Central American children on the border; Israeli companies that built the wall in Gaza, hired to build on the U.S. Mexican border; corporations that mine subsoil resources directing U.S. policy in the Middle East and Central America, while putting climate change on the fast track.