As Trump Pursues Hardline Immigration Policies, a Look at Guatemala and Honduras

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In October, the three recipients of 2016’s CRS Egan Fellowship traveled with Catholic Relief Services to Guatemala and Honduras to cover the root causes of the migration crisis. As Donald Trump attempts to make good on his promise to build a wall and increase restrictions on immigration, it is an important time to consider the human impact of such policies and what life is like in Central America.

Millennial editor Robert Christian has written on the subject at Crux, the Washington Post, National Catholic Reporter, and here at Millennial:

The Power of Redemption: He Joined a Gang at 10, But Now He’s Free: “Daniel’s is a story of redemption. It shows the power of both love and faith in changing people’s lives. Many of us are too quick to assume others are irredeemable. We inoculate ourselves from the lived reality of those who don’t live respectable bourgeois lives. But Christians are called to reach out, to move beyond our comfort zones and encounter those living on the peripheries. Otherwise our faith becomes salt that has lost its taste.”

Putting people first starts with Francis’s ‘culture of encounter’: “When you see talented young people whose opportunities are so limited; meet activists and journalists who fight for truth and justice in the face of threats; or talk to hard-working farmers who feel the government is indifferent to how precarious their position is, the status quo becomes intolerable.”

Who will Americans be after Tuesday? Here’s why our identity is at stake.: “The United States does not need a xenophobe in chief. We do not need populism that appeals to our worst instincts. To make America great, we need to embrace our responsibilities to foster freedom, democracy and human rights on our own continent and around the world; to welcome refugees and those seeking economic opportunity and even survival; and to embrace a national culture where diversity is seen as a source of pride and strength. Next week’s election is a referendum on American identity, and the decision we make as Americans will have lasting implications that will reverberate around the world. Let us hope that the American people make the right decision and choose to be the land of the free and brave, rather than the isolated and afraid.”

Poverty, injustice still drive migration from Guatemala: “Morales is correct that lack of development and widespread poverty are at the core of the migration crisis, the key underlying factor and an immediate cause for many. It also facilitates the drug trade and strengthens organized crime, which are behind much of the country’s violence and insecurity. Economic inequality fosters corruption by oligarchic elites. The lack of security and government corruption, in turn, hinder development and perpetuate poverty. It remains to be seen if civil society and government mechanisms are strong enough to provide the type of transparency that is essential to good governance. Morales also declined to discuss whether the gross inequalities in wealth can be addressed without altering the distribution of land ownership, a highly contentious issue. But he did acknowledge that no solution will come overnight.”

Millennial Catholic Ashley McKinless has written a series of reports on the subject for America, including the first cover story in their newly-redesigned print magazine:

Beyond the Wall: “Mr. Trump can build his wall. But they will keeping coming. Until deported mothers and fathers like Miguel are reunited with their children in the United States, they will keep coming. Until aspiring teachers like Susana are able to use and pass on their education, until someone like Angelita is able to support herself and her family, they will keep coming.”

A Look Inside Guatemala’s Deportation Center: “A football field away they start exiting the plane: first 10 or so women and girls, walking in threesomes or pairs; then a seemingly endless stream of men, young and old, make their procession across the tarmac. I try to make eye contact with each. Some flash a wide, confident grin, others a sheepish smile; many look stoically ahead, others, visibly upset, study the floor. Some are still wearing the plain white tees they were given at the border detention center. For security reasons, shoelaces and belts are not allowed. We are told their chains were removed prior to deplaning.”

What Is Holding Back Guatemala’s Young Workers?: “Angelita, just 18 years old, is already an expert in a coffee cultivation, a volunteer firefighter and smokejumper, her community’s de facto E.M.T. and a midwife (she has delivered four babies so far). She studied computer systems in high school, helps out her dad in the fields and her mom in the kitchen and plays soccer in her free time. She says being tired is a state of mind, one she does not have much time for. She has the resume and ambition that in the United States would make any aspiring Ivy Leaguer look over their shoulder. But, like most young people in the region, she has no job and few prospects for more schooling.”

A Safe Space for Honduran Teens: “Oscar, a baby-faced 12-year-old I met over lunch, was abandoned by his mother when he was two. She left him and his brothers with an unrelated man in Guatemala, who, Oscar says, took him in but sent away the older ones because “he didn’t like them.” Oscar did not describe what he experienced there, but it is hard not to draw the worst conclusions. He eventually left to find his grandmother, ended up in a shelter in Mexico and was deported back to Honduras just two weeks ago. Words and statistics do not do justice to the forces working against these kids.”

Photo Essay: Eating Well in Guatemala:  “In Guatemala, half of the children under the age of 5 suffer from malnutrition; in indigenous communities, that rate can be upwards of 70 percent. Lack of access to nutrient-dense food and clean water not only causes illness and long-term, irreversible developmental problems but keeps children out of school, perpetuating entrenched poverty—and pushing many to migrate north. Ashley McKinless visited a community that is working with Catholic Relief Services to break that cycle.”

Judith Sudilovsky has written on the subject for Catholic News Service and Our Sunday Visitor:

Seeking migrant justice in Guatemala: “Though most people we spoke with agree that violence in Guatemala is not as serious as in neighboring El Salvador and Honduras, it does exist. Some of the youth may have been escaping gang or drug violence; others came seeking work to support their families in a country where half of the children suffer from chronic malnutrition. A new government has been in power for less than a year, after the former president, vice president, and half of their cabinet were forced from office and are now serving prison terms for financial corruption. The new leaders have promised to tackle some of Guatemala’s pressing needs, but assert that it will take time to correct even the smallest of the ills of their predecessors who left the national till empty. People are waiting to see what actually gets done.”

Processing images of poverty, crime and war: “So for me at the moment there is no escape from the images of human suffering and destruction caused by poverty, crime and war which exist today just as they existed in the past. But today more than ever, it is too hard to say “We didn’t know.”

Program helps Guatemalans fight child malnutrition with gardens, hygiene: “By improving access to food and clean water, the project aims to reduce deadly chronic malnutrition in children. It hopes to reach 23,500 families in eight municipalities by its completion in July 2018.”

Guatemalan coffee growers find hope in Catholic cooperative: “The Green Coffee project, a program of Catholic Relief Services and Caritas San Marcos, is helping cooperative members in Guatemala with better planting techniques and soil management to improve the quality in coffee beans. They hope to help people stay in the country.”

Generations in need of healing and a future: “The Youth Builders project, which the center has sponsored together with Social Pastoral Caritas Los Altos and Catholic Relief Services, has helped 480 youths and their families over a three-year period. Though the immediate aim is to help maximize employment opportunities for young people by boosting their confidence and providing training, it also strives to transform violent relations and promote inclusion and dialogue within the family through meetings and workshops. Sometimes parents are invited to participate in the dialogue.”