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The Lives that are US Immigration Talking Points
August 6, 2014 11:58 AM   Subscribe

"What You Don't Know About Migrant Children May Kill Them." You may be aware of the overwhelming numbers of underage migrants from Central America now in the U.S. immigration system. You may not know so much about why they've arrived, why they've left, nor how they actually got here.

Their stories include Javier's:
Javier was halfway through his walk home from the fields at the end of the work day, but he was not relaxed to be headed home. He was keeping a wary eye out for a truck to drive up along side him, and for what could happen if it did. Javier was watching for MS-13 gang members. They had already harassed him three times in the fields and twice on his way home — each incident closer and closer to where he lived. If they followed him much further on his route, their death threats could easily turn into reality.
Javier’s older sister had caught the eye of the 25 to 30 year old men in MS-13. They wanted her as a “girlfriend” for the gang, and they weren’t letting up until they knew where she was. They had threatened to kill Javier and his grandparents if he didn’t tell them her whereabouts. Javier thought about the increasing threats and the danger he and his grandparents were in. It was no longer safe in Honduras. He needed to leave.
Franklin and Erick's (in Spanish):
"Empezaron pidiéndome dinero, que trabajara. Con el tiempo me tenía más metido a ellos, yo no podía salirme de ellos, si yo intentaba decirle a alguien, me golpeaban muy fuerte. Me agarraban a batazos, a pedradas", relata Franklin.

"Estaba trabajando en un bar y tenía tres meses de estar trabajando en ese bar, cuando llegaron los de las pandillas y me dijeron que tenía que vender droga, que solo teníamos una semana para pensarlo", cuenta Erick.
Ronald Aldana's:
He was studying auto mechanics at a trade school when he heard that his cousin was murdered alongside a road. Aldana and his dad reported the crime to the police and helped with his burial. Within hours, Aldana started getting threats that escalated into attacks.
"We just couldn't deal with it anymore," Aldana said. "The first time they tried to kill me, I'd gone out to pick up some books and as I headed home, a group of men on the street started shooting in my direction, but I jumped towards a ravine behind me."
Aldana survived the attempts on his life. But his father decided it was time for him to leave – for good. Aldana said, "[My father] hugged me and said, 'Son, you know I love you, but you cannot stay here. I'd rather die than have you killed.'"
Aldana resisted. But he was familiar with this kind of story, and he knew how it was likely to end: If the gangs target you – you'd better go.
and Yenesis's:
"When you live in Honduras, you quickly learn that anywhere and anything is better, but then you get to Mexico and you understand that hell extends beyond Honduras."
Of those coming to the U.S. overland, Doctors Without Borders finds 60% experience violence en route (Spanish). More comprehensively, Anita Khashu has interviewed unaccompanied minors traveling through Mexico, in a report released in 2010 (pdf, English).

A brief statement signed by more than 600 Latin-Americanist scholars summarizes the larger issues that have led to this moment (google doc). These larger reasons include violence, more violence, the 2009 coup in Honduras (which destablized rural land tenure, among many other things), impunity and effective oligarchy, the drug war, structural racism, transgender and queer oppression (Spanish), U.S. foreign policy and the long U.S. support for repressive governments in Central America.

It's worth noting that several political talking points are, in fact, incorrect. Immigration law, or rumor about immigration law, is said to be attracting migrants. It is not. The migrants also present little evidence of a "crisis of border security." for instance: One South Texas border official says "We're not being overrun by anything. We're not being attacked by anything." A concurring opinoion comes from the El Paso County Judge, as well as Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)—who said that colleagues who want to seal the border "obviously don’t know what they’re talking about"—and former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano.

How many of them are legally refugees? Tens of thousands. While the exact number depends on who you ask, the UN High Commission on Refugees put out a study titled "Children on the Run" in Spring 2014 that found 58% of their sample (n=404) had "immediate protection needs" (in wider context of 59,000 child migrants detained thus far, 58%=34,000 people), the Organization of American States estimates 50% (50%:=29,500 people; in Spanish), and the plan floated by the Obama administration estimated that 1750 of 5000 applications would qualify—35% (35%=20,650 people). None of these numbers count the other young adults who have fled, and also have refugee claims.

Finally, Dara Lind at Vox lists some Ways to Help. Like many situations, money is the single most useful way to help for those so inclined (unless you are an immigration lawyer).
posted by migrantology (5 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

The migrants also present little evidence of a "crisis of border security." for instance: One South Texas border official says "We're not being overrun by anything. We're not being attacked by anything." A concurring opinoion comes from the El Paso County Judge, as well as Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)—who said that colleagues who want to seal the border "obviously don’t know what they’re talking about"—and former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano.

I used to live in Texas, and it was always interesting to see the talk about illegal immigration steadily become more muted the further south you went. I suppose, that given the region's farming economy, the stench of hypocrisy would be too great. It's one thing to complain about illegal immigrants when you eat the fruit they picked, it's another to oversee them while they gin your cotton.
posted by zabuni at 2:00 PM on August 6

The "hearings" given to detained migrant families are a complete shitshow where lawyers aren't allow to speak with or for their clients, aren't allowed to use cell phone or printers, immigration judges refuse to explain the legal basis of their decisions, and no one is allowed to leave.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:01 PM on August 6

The whole situation makes me feel sick. Dear gods, why can't we take care of other humans well?
posted by Deoridhe at 2:19 AM on August 7

It's hard to feel optimistic. This crisis with the kids? Far from softening American views, it has dramatically hardened them:

Christian Science Monitor "Some 70 percent of Americans and 86 percent of Republicans believe that undocumented immigrants threaten traditional US beliefs and customs, according to an online Reuters/Ipsos poll released Thursday. Nearly two-thirds of respondents – 63 percent – said that undocumented immigrants place undue burden on the US economy.

Forty-five percent of respondents said that they feel that the number of immigrants allowed to legally enter the country should be reduced; only 17 percent said they thought that number should increase. That's in sharp contrast to opinions expressed six months ago in a February Pew Research Center poll, which found that nearly three-quarters of Americans would support a legal path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

That was before news broke in June that more than 50,000 unaccompanied children, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala had been apprehended at the border since October. Since then, immigration has leaped to the forefront of the national dialogue in recent months.

Immigration could be a dominant issue in the upcoming midterm elections and could drive more Republican voters to the polls, Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson speculated in a Reuters interview.

The Democrats are getting beaten pretty badly on this: "A second poll, released Wednesday by CBS, found that only 31 percent of Americans are satisfied with Obama’s current handling of immigration."

Republicans everywhere are using this issue to demolish the Democrats, even in states far removed and with little exposure to illegal immigration. It's nasty and a nasty turn to nativism. Dark times ahead.
posted by VikingSword at 3:23 PM on August 7

The Border Crisis Is America's Chance to Repent for Past Mistakes in Central America
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:34 AM on August 8

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