For Immediate Release
Report Calls On Policymakers To Cease Funding Militarization In Central America
September 4, 2019, Chicago & Boston — A delegation of U.S. elected officials, immigrant rights advocates, community leaders, and legal experts traveled to Central America in mid-August to observe the political, economic, and social realities that spur the exodus of thousands of people in search of protection in the United States. The delegation’s findings have been collected and published in a new report released jointly by Alianza Americas, Centro Presente, and Lawyers for Civil Rights.
The new report — titled “Fleeing, Not Migrating: Toward A Solution To The Human Rights Crisis Affecting Migrants and Asylum Seekers” — makes a clear case for humanitarian protections in the United States, and for addressing the underlying problems of violence, corruption, and impunity that continue to place people at risk in Central America. The report outlines five factors that are driving caravans and displacement and bluntly tells U.S. legislators and policymakers: “not one more dollar” toward militarization and criminalization of communities in Central America. Instead, the report urges investments in democratic participation, rule of law, and humanitarian protections.
The fact-finding mission that produced the report was led by Alianza Americas, Centro Presente and Lawyers for Civil Rights, with the participation of two Massachusetts State Legislators, Andrés X. Vargas and Nika C. Elugardo, both of whom represent districts with Central American populations.
Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, explained the delegation’s important role in observing and documenting country conditions:
“Immigrant rights defenders who have not traveled to the region only understand a small fraction of the complex dynamics driving displacement. The region has an alarming number of internally displaced people due to violence. You cannot fully understand the human cost of forced migration until you see and experience the conditions that have forced people to flee,” said Espinoza-Madrigal.
The new report stresses five concrete recommendations for U.S. policymakers:
- Stop fomenting violence in Central America;
- Promote democracy and the Rule of Law in Central America;
- Strengthen U.S. humanitarian and asylum protections;
- Protect women and other vulnerable populations; and
- Support meaningful economic opportunities in Central America.
“Currently, El Salvador and Honduras are experiencing widespread violence, which is facilitated by impunity due to a historically weak criminal justice system and unbridled corruption that engulfs law enforcement, state agencies, and the judicial system. This violence and instability has direct roots in the long history of United States policies being imposed on our countries of origin, policies that only benefit corporate interests and corrupt elites,” said Patrica Montes, Executive Director of Centro Presente.
Oscar Chacón, Executive Director of Alianza Americas, emphasized the importance of addressing both the structural issues that cause people to flee and the immediate need to protect those who are at risk:
“As Latin American immigrant leaders in the United States, we seek to influence decision-makers in this country to fight for humane migration policies. It is crucial that elected officials know what is happening in Central America and understand that if there is a crisis, it is the one happening in the countries where people are fleeing. This understanding is vital to advocate for changes in US humanitarian protections and reshaping our foreign policy so that it supports new initiatives that over time allow Central American countries to become places from which fewer people are forced to flee,” said Chacón.
The new report is based on a series of fact-finding visits and information gathering sessions in Central America during the week of August 11, including San Pedro Sula, the Honduran city where the first “caravan” of asylum seekers departed for the U.S. in October 2018. The report highlights the criminalization of environmental defenders in Tocoa, Honduras, where members of the Environmental Committee of Guapinol and representatives of community-based organizations continue to be persecuted. The report also documents threats and violent attacks against Afro-descendant Garifuna communities who are attempting to defend their collective lands from exploitation and expropriation. Other visits included civil society organizations working on the root causes of forced migration, and institutions that monitor and assist victims of human rights violations and violence in Honduras and El Salvador.
The report is available here
Founded in 1981, Centro Presente is a Latin American immigrant organization run by its members and dedicated to the self-determination and self-reliance of the Latin American immigrant community in Massachusetts. Operated and directed mainly by Central American immigrants, Centro Presente fights for immigrant rights and economic and social justice. Through the integration of community organizing, leadership development and basic services, Centro Presente strives to give members a voice and develop community power. Visit our website: www.cpresente.org.
Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) promotes equal opportunities and combats discrimination against ethnic minorities and immigrants. LCR engages in creative and courageous legal actions, as well as educational and advocacy work, in collaboration with law firms and community partners. Together with community allies, LCR filed the first lawsuits in the country against the Trump administration to protect sanctuary cities; to save TPS on behalf of Honduran, Salvadoran and Haitian immigrants; and to block immigration arrests in courthouses. Visit our website: www.lawyersforcivilrights.org.
Alianza Americas is a network of 50 immigrant-led organizations representing more than 150,000 families across the United States. It is the only national network in the United States of Latin American and Caribbean organizations working from a transnational perspective for inclusive, equitable and sustainable living conditions. You can learn more about Alianza Américas by visiting the following website: www.alianzaamericas.org