Politics of Poverty

Central American children living with violence and without recourse

Posted by
TENOSIQUE, MEXICO - MAY 29, 2014: A migrant girl traveling north with her mother, looks at a mural of a map of popular migrant routes through mexico, painted on a wall at the 72 migrant shelter in Tenosique, where Catholic priests and other volunteers provide mats for migrants to sleep on, second-hand clothes, meals, basic medical treatment, and help applying for immigration visas and refugee status to people traveling north. The shelter, which traditionally has been visited by men between the ages of 15-35, has recently been overrun by women and children in recent months, more than double the amount -- consequential of a recent boom of minors headed to the United States from Central America. PHOTO: Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

The reasons children leave their homes behind include violence and a will to live.

Where I live there are gangs…They’re the ones who rule here. They look for children from the community to bring them into their gang. I have a cousin who converted, he’s in the gang now, and he’s only 12 years old. Now they’re looking for him, to kill him… A friend of his was just killed. They stabbed him. Then they cut him into pieces and put him in a bag which they left for my aunt.

Testimony of Nakisha, age 15, Honduras 

Last week, President Trump slammed the door on Central American children fleeing violence — gang violence, violence from common crime, gender violence, and domestic violence… the violence of poverty.  The reasons children leave their homes behind are hard for many of us to imagine here in the United States. Violence is a dominant motive, along with a will to live.

The US government, under President Obama, established a Humanitarian Parole program that would allow children, like Nakisha, to obtain refugee status in the United States if he or she had a parent legally residing in the country. But this has changed under President Trump’s recently signed Executive Order.  Oxfam is concerned about the impacts of the Executive Order’s temporary 120 day hold on this program, denying the slimmest hope of safe haven for those living under frightening and dangerous conditions such as described above.

The Humanitarian Parole program recognized that Central American children are fleeing violence and forced gang recruitment. It was designed to dissuade them from making the often life-threatening journey to the US border, a journey even worse for females, no matter what age, who risk sexual assault or forced sex trafficking. While roughly 11,000 Central Americans have applied for the program, only 2,000 have been resettled in the United States — a drop in the bucket compared to the tens of thousands of kids, youth and adults living day-in and day-out in a nightmare.

Oxfam and other organizations had criticized Obama’s program as insufficient to address the dire conditions, but still it was something. And it was a small recognition by the former administration of the severe humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Northern Triangle countries.  But even this was taken away in less than a week of the new administration.

As for everyone affected by all of the Trump Administration’s heartless executive orders, this temporary hold could well have fatal consequence for the innocent children and families seeking safe haven. Oxfam stands with all refugees and migrants. We call on Members of Congress to revoke this executive order so the Humanitarian Parole program can continue. Oxfam believes that it is a core American value to provide a safe haven for refugees and immigrants, and to work for policies that allow citizens and residents alike, to thrive.


Oxfam.org Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+