Sunday, June 15, 2014

Children at the Southern Border

The debate around immigration reform in America for years now has largely been focused on finding a solution for those living illegally here in America, their children, either brought here as kids, or those born here to illegal immigrants, and how to address future immigrants, specifically from Mexico and Latin America, as European immigrants don't seem to count.  Asian and African immigrants are another story as well.

This week however, a new crisis emerged in the media, the thousands of children crossing the border alone, fleeing from Central America, especially Honduras.  Media attention to South America is fleeting at best, mostly covering Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez (now it's President Maduro), but news is not really focusing on any other countries, except Brazil now that the World Cup is there.  Even in this story the reporting goes like this "thousands of kids are arriving at the US border, fleeing violence in Honduras." There is no more mention of the situation in Honduras or other countries, just back to our "problem" of too many kids at the border.

On a side note I will mention that the media appears to be getting the Eric Cantor election defeat wrong, as it is not a clear test on his views on immigration

Here is some reporting on Honduras and the larger issues.

On Point with Tom Ashbrook and Democracy Now! did great shows on the topic, exploring the issue here at the border as well as the violence in Honduras and the situation there.

Democracy Now! reports
A coalition of immigration and civil rights groups has filed a complaint alleging widespread and systemic abuse of migrant children by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Organizations including the National Immigrant Justice Center and the ACLU say they’re acting on behalf of over 100 unaccompanied children mistreated by border agents after crossing into the United States.
Democracy Now! also had Aviva Chomsky, daughter of Noam Chomsky, explain how immigration from Mexico and South America became illegal as policies changed. immigration started to be restricted for groups, including Asians and eventually even for Europeans who were considered to be inferior Europeans, like southern and eastern Europeans in the 1920s, Mexican border crossing was never restricted. Mexican border crossing was never restricted because Mexican labor was so utterly necessary in the southwest of the United States and because Mexicans were not considered immigrants, so therefore, their immigration did not have to be restricted. They were considered to be workers, legally discriminated against for what were considered racial grounds, that is they were so-called "Mexican." That was perfectly legal. To deprive them of citizenship was perfectly legal. And, the system worked from the perspective of maintaining United States is a white country because unlike the Asians, Mexican migration was generally circular migration. That is, Mexicans came, worked for a season or year or a couple of years, and returned to Mexico. So the history of border migrations for 150 years was one of circular migrations that were basically either completely unregulated or, for example during 1942 and 1964, extended through 1967, government-sponsored through the Bracero program, but migrations that denied citizenship and denied rights to the Mexicans who were in the country.

Senator Ted Cruz gave a good speech about the humanitarian crisis, but then simply blamed Obama and left it at that.

Contra Costa Times
The issue gained traction this week when United Nations officials described a surge of children fleeing gang recruitment in Central America to seek asylum in the United States a "humanitarian crisis." 
Honduras has turned violent partially because 90 percent of the cocaine and marijuana headed north from Colombia flows through its borders.
For those who remain behind, life can seem hopeless. According to the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime, Honduras suffered an average of 90.4 homicides per 100,000 people in 2012. Or put it this way: On average, 20 people a day are murdered in the country sandwiched between El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
By comparison, the United States had 4.7 murders per 100,000 in 2012 -- higher than almost every other developed country.
The figures are more distressing in Honduras' second-largest city, San Pedro Sula. It has a murder rate of 169 per 100,000 people. "In San Pedro Sula, people are mowed down on soccer fields, in shoe factories and at the airport," the Los Angeles Times wrote in December.


BOLD are my comments as I edit the article
The unprecedented rise in Honduran children fleeing to the U.S. is due to misinformation about American immigration laws and drug violence, the president of Honduras told Fusion on Friday.
“They might think they can gain legal status through this,” said President Juan Orlando Hernandez. “But on the other hand, this is a kind of displacement, because of the cartel wars and the Maras [gangs] in Central America.”
President Obama has called the influx of children an “urgent humanitarian situation"
but adds that
Still, the administration has stressed that children who enter the country illegally will be subject to immigration law and, potentially, deportation. (there's a reason immigrant's rights groups call Obama the "Deporter in Chief" as he recently passed 2 million deportations, and to compare, the US prison system holds 2.3 million)
Politics in DC as usual
Lawmakers in Washington have argued in recent weeks over what’s causing the surge in child migration. Republicans say the deferred action program, which allows young undocumented immigrants to live and work in the U.S., is tempting more people to cross illegally. Democrats say it’s crushing poverty and violence in Latin America.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, for his part, recognized both factors. He pleaded for U.S. authorities to recognize the plight of migrants.
“I’ve asked the United States government to treat this matter with the utmost care from the humanitarian perspective,” he said. “They are kids in search of their parents and they have the complete right to be with their parents.”

Let's look at some of the history.....

The 2009 US Backed Coup

I first posted this on June 15 when the story was in the news.  On July 17 Democracy Now also looked back at the history leading up to the current crisis, and spoke about the 2009 coup as a major source of the current violence.

The Diane Rehm show on the other hand did not mention the coup as a central factor in the current crisis.

Despite discussing the "as well as dealing with the root causes of these problems in the countries themselves." There was no mention of the coup in 2009. Diane Rehm Show July 28 2014

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Frank, I wanted to go to this issue of U.S. responsibility and turn to former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted five years ago. We got a chance to sit down with him in 2011 at his home in Tegucigalpa. I had just flown in with him. This was after the coup when a new president was chosen. And his family flew back from Nicaragua to Honduras. It was the first time that he was at his home for several years.
MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The U.S. State Department has always denied, and they continue to deny, any ties with the coup d’état. Nevertheless, all of the proof incriminates the U.S. government. And all of the actions that were taken by the de facto regime, or the golpista regime, which are those who carried out the coup, and it is to make favor of the industrial policies and the military policies and the financial policies of the United States in Honduras.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. Professor Dana Frank, he strongly felt that the U.S. was involved with the coup. What evidence is there for that?

DANA FRANK: Well, the biggest evidence we have is that his plane stopped at the air force base at Palmerola, known as Soto Cano Air Force Base now, which is a joint U.S. and Honduran base. That plane could not have stopped there without U.S. permission. We don’t have the big smoking guns. We certainly have the behavior of the U.S. State Department and the White House after the coup, which was to legitimate the coup government as an equal partner to Zelaya—in fact, as a superior partner. They never denounced the spectacular repression after the coup. And they treated Zelaya like a bad child for trying to return to his own country. They recognized—they announced that they would recognize the outcome of the illegitimate November elections after that, even before the votes were counted. And it was clearly they wanted the whole situation to go away.

July 28, 2009 The Nation
What specifically did Zelaya do to conjure these malevolent spirits of the cold war past? The US press has focused on his efforts to build support for a constitutional assembly, misrepresenting the effort as a power grab when in fact the proposal to revise the Constitution was broadly supported by social movements as an effort to democratize Honduras's notoriously exclusive political system. The business community didn't like Zelaya because he raised the minimum wage. Conservative evangelicals and Catholics--including Opus Dei, a formidable presence in Honduras--detested him because he refused to ban the "morning-after" pill. The mining, hydroelectric and biofuel sector didn't like him because he didn't put state funds and land at their disposal. The law-and-order crowd hated him because he apologized on behalf of the state for a program of "social cleansing" that took place in the 1990s, which included the execution of street children and gang members. And the generals didn't like it when he tried to assert executive control over the military. Similar to the armed forces in Guatemala and El Salvador, the Honduran military after the cold war diversified its portfolio, with its officers investing heavily in both legitimate and illegitimate businesses, such as the narcotics trade, illegal logging, and illicit adoptions.

June 30, 2009 New York Times
The United States has a history of backing rival political factions and instigating coups in the region, and administration officials have found themselves on the defensive in recent days, dismissing repeated allegations by President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela that the C.I.A. may have had a hand in the president’s removal.
Obama administration officials said that they were surprised by the coup on Sunday. But they also said that they had been working for several weeks to try to head off a political crisis in Honduras as the confrontation between Mr. Zelaya and the military over his efforts to lift presidential term limits escalated.
The United States has long had strong ties to the Honduras military and helps train Honduran military forces. Those close ties have put the Obama administration in a difficult position, opening it up to accusations that it may have turned a blind eye to the pending coup. Administration officials strongly deny the charges, and Mr. Obama’s quick response to the Honduran president’s removal has differed sharply from the actions of the Bush administration, which in 2002 offered a rapid, tacit endorsement of a short-lived coup against Mr. Chávez.
Let's hope that media pays more attention to news in South America, and lawmakers tell the whole truth and really try to solve some issues. As long as the media only focuses on a part of the story this week, news reports will never show the causes and effects and how we got here.  That assumes they even try to cover the story in the first place.

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