Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
Thousands of refugee children have been fleeing violence and poverty in Central America for almost a year now. Until all Hell broke loose in Ferguson, Missouri last week, the refugee children had the national limelight. (We are on to the next shiny thing.)
Two heart-wrenching stories about the refugee children were released today. First, Think Progress released a story stating that 5-10 of the recently deported children have already been murdered.
Second, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that group of four young cousins would be facing an immigration judge in Cleveland today and could likely deported– despite having been reunited with family members in the US (pictured above).
Look at the faces of these children. How can we send them back to gang violence and death? Have we become a country of greedy, self-centered bigots? Probably, yes.
Child Deportees Murdered in Honduras
From Think Progress…
Between five and ten migrant children have been killed since February after the United States deported them back to Honduras, a morgue director told the Los Angeles Times. Lawmakers have yet to come up with best practices to deal with the waves of unaccompanied children apprehended by Border Patrol agents, but some politicians refute claims that children are fleeing violence and are opting instead to fund legislation that would fast-track their deportations.
San Pedro Sula morgue director Hector Hernandez told the Los Angeles Times that his morgue has taken in 42 dead children since February. According to an interview with relatives by the LA Times, one teenager was shot dead hours after getting deported. Last year, San Pedro Sula saw 187 killings for every 100,000 residents, a statistic that has given the city the gruesome distinction as the murder capital of the world. That distinction has also been backed up by an U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency infographic, which found that many Honduran children are on the run from extremely violent regions “where they probably perceive the risk of traveling alone to the U.S. preferable to remaining at home.” Hugo Ramon Maldonado of the Committee for the Protection of Human Rights in Honduras believes that about 80 percent of Hondurans making the exodus are fleeing crime or violence. [More here.]
Child Refugees in Cincinnati Could Be Deported
From the Cincinnati Enquirer (AKA Cincinnati.com)…
The four young cousins [three of whom are pictured above] landed in the Arizona desert, hungry, thirsty and exhausted after a three-day trek to cross the border. The youngest child, 6, couldn’t take another step. The others kicked and screamed to fight off the attempted rape of the oldest girl, 17, by their Guatemalan guide.
When he finally fled, the children were left to fend for themselves for a day and a night in a new land they desperately longed to call home.
The ragtag group eventually arrived in Greater Cincinnati, four of the 62,000 unaccompanied children making up one of the largest immigration exoduses to reach U.S. borders in decades.
The wide-scale flight since October is unusual for its young demographic, driven partly by the false idea that immigrant children will be more welcome in the U.S. than adults. Because of its potential to change the makeup of the nation’s schools, communities and cities, the flight also is igniting new debate over an old clash of values: the rights of a country to defend its borders versus an obligation to protect would-be newcomers from poverty or violence abroad.
The Enquirer found three of the children living today with their mother in a small Hamilton apartment; a family in Northern Kentucky is sheltering the fourth child, a niece.
They’re typical of the flight of the border children from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico – about 30,000 of whom have been resettled with relatives across the country. Thousands more wait in border shelters and tent cities stretching from the southern tip of Texas to California.
While politicians from Washington to state capitals argue over policy, the tiny group that made its way here fights a more personal battle daily. Their mother works two jobs. The children prepare to return to school. None speaks English; an interpreter was required for this story.
And a bigger threat looms: Tuesday, the three siblings must appear in a courtroom in Cleveland, where an immigration judge could order them sent back to Guatemala in 30 days.
Family flees violence, Seeks means of support
The Escalante cousins left Cuilco, Guatemala, last December, fleeing a region in western Guatemala known for violence, drug smuggling and opium poppy farming.
Modesta Escalante, the 32-year-old mother of three of the children, told of a friend hit with a crude club by a machete-carrying member of a drug gang who then stole her purse. Modesta said robbers once knocked on her door and tried to force their way in. Her screams and those of her children brought neighbors to the rescue, who chased away the robbers.
When her husband left her in early 2012 to emigrate illegally to the U.S., Modesta had no money, food or a job. She soon asked her brother and his wife, parents of the 17-year-old who came North with her children, if they would care for her son and two daughters until she could reclaim them. They agreed, and Modesta set out for the United States.
“When I went through the desert, I suffered very much,” she said in Spanish on a recent day at her home. “I walked for four days and four nights. I would faint but had to keep going.”
She settled in a two-room apartment in Hamilton, drawn to the area because she knew other Guatemalans who lived here and because she thought her children’s father had come here, too. She always intended to send for her children as soon as she could.
Today, Modesta attends San Carlos Borromeo Church in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Carthage. She works full-time as a janitor in a restaurant and another 18 hours a week planting flowers in a nursery. Like most working, undocumented immigrants, she has an IRS identification number and pays local, state and federal taxes on her earnings.
That amounts to about $600 a week. When her children were still in Guatemala, she sent her brother $300 a month. The rest paid for food, shelter and transportation here.
Back home, Modesta’s children survived in a land of maras or marabuntas – gangs that originated in the U.S. but were sent back to Central America in a mass deportation of violent criminals. Marabuntas are the carnivorous ants of Central America that destroy all life in their path. In the Guatemalan villages, the mara gangs are feared by local government officials and act with impunity, going so far as to forcibly recruit boys. Modesta’s concern: Gangs spreading out from Cuilco would ensnare her son and other boys.
She feared for her girls, too. Central American experts say many are either forced into gang-controlled prostitution rings or enter the street life voluntarily as their only means to help support their families.
“I was afraid for them to stay,” Modesta said. “I was afraid for them to come here.” [More here.]
Congress Punts Because ‘It’s Complicated’
Just a few weeks ago when the media villagers were focused on the child refugees, Congressional Republicans, who have been using every excuse possible to avoid immigration reform, were scurrying about in an attempt change the law and enable speedy deportation of the children.
Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake and Rep. Matt Salmon were in the forefront of the “Deportation Now!” movement. Flake told the Arizona Daily Star that the children “complicated” the situation and that their presence would most likely slow down immigration talks.
Oh, yeah, blame years of Republican non-action on desperate children who are fighting for their lives. Flake, McCain, Salmon, and the rest of the greedy bigots who want to turn a blind eye toward these child refugees: You are sentencing children to death to save your sorry political careers. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
All I gotta say is: Karma’s a bitch.