Deport the Children and Stoke the Fire

  • Written by  Marco Cáceres

More than 15,000 children from Honduras have been apprehended at the US-Mexico border since October 2013. The unaccompanied child migrants -- some of them as young as 4 years of age -- were caught trying to cross over into the United States. The story is now well known. The kids were trying to escape the violence, which many believe has now reached a "tipping point" in Honduras... violence generated by the illegal drug trade that has fueled the growth and power of drug cartels and organized gangs in the country. An estimated 5,000 of the children have been deported (or are in the process of being deported) by US immigration authorities, and President Barack Obama is planning to step up efforts to deport many more. The Obama administration plans to ask the US Congress for US$2 billion in emergency funds to speed up the deportations.

Dozens of buses filled with deported Honduran children may soon be heading southward through Mexico and Guatemala back to Honduras. Some of the kids will be sent back aboard chartered commercial aircraft. Deportation ain't cheap, particularly when you consider that the flow of children (and adults) out of Honduras is not about to subside anytime soon, because the social and economic conditions that have prompted the seemingly endless exodus of Hondurans in the first place have not markedly improved. So the chances are that President Obama will have to go back to the trough for more money to keep up the deportation rates.

 

In the end, I suspect it will be a losing battle for the US government, notably because the more it engages in mass deportations of Honduran children, the more it will overwhelm the Honduran government's ability to process the deportations and reunite children with their parents or grandparents -- assuming, of course, these people even exist anymore.

 

According to the Vice Foreign Minister of Honduras, Diana Valladares, "These children who traveled unaccompanied will definitely be reunited with their parents, and their cases will be referred to judges for processing." Maybe. But probably not. In many cases, the parents of these kids are already living illegally in the US, and the grandparents with whom they were left years ago are now either too old to care for them or have died off. So there are not many good options for guardianship. And don't count on much help from government orphanages or children's homes, because they stink (figuratively and literally).

 

Here's the Vice Minister again: “We're already certain that the unaccompanied children will be reunited [with their parents]." Uh, don't believe it. She's saying what she's required to say. There's no reason to assume the Honduran government can even begin to handle this challenge. To the contrary.

 

Ultimately, most of these deported children will find their homes on the streets, where they will eventually be recruited by drug cartels and organized gangs, thus expanding the size and reach of these criminal groups. In other words, the deportations will make the social and economic conditions in Honduras even worse, which will in turn spur even more illegal emigration to the US. At some point, the US government will have to deal with the source of the problem, rather than trying to mindlessly mess around with its symptoms. As immediately gratifying as it may be to those who want to strictly enforce US immigration laws, the symptomatic approach is just making things worse. (6/30/14) (photo courtesy Internet)

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Note: The author is the editor and cofounder of Honduras Weekly. He is also the author of the book, "The Good Coup: The Overthrow of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras". His next book, "The Wolf We Feed: Post-Coup Honduras Under Pepe Lobo", will be published in August 2014.

 

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