Participants in a recent fact-finding mission to Central America—coordinated by Alianza Americas, Centro Presente, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice—have returned from an intense week of travel, dialogue, and meetings with stakeholders throughout Honduras and El Salvador. Takeaways from the experience will inform their ongoing work to build legal and legislative supports for Central American asylum seekers and migrants, including Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, in the United States.
Delegates—including US Representative James McGovern (D-MA), Joseph Curtatone, the mayor of Somerville, MA, and the executive directors of the three coordinating organizations—met with their peers in government and civil society in the respective host countries.
While the peer-to-peer exchange and networking was productive, delegates agreed that the most eye-opening aspect of their week in Central America was the connections with everyday Hondurans and Salvadorans—people who the escalating violence, cyclical poverty, and deep-seated corruption that have caused around 390,000 of their neighbors to flee these countries since last years.
“Their stories are what makes the difference – we’re inundated with facts, figures, statistics, but sometimes I think we’ve lost our human ability to feel what they mean,” said Rep. McGovern. “Coming to Honduras and El Salvador, talking to real people—not just government officials, not just our embassy, but real people—that’s what’s moving.”
Patricia Montes, executive director of Boston-based Centro Presente, agreed.
“We saw how extreme poverty and corruption and impunity are still taking place in countries like Honduras and El Salvador, she said. “People have no alternatives—especially young people—and they are leaving these countries because they have no hope. There’s no opportunities for them here.”
Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, described how powerful conversations with Central Americans will shape his legal defense work in the United States.
“We are hearing from affected children and families who are being displaced by force due to extreme poverty and violence,” he said. “This is an important aspect of the immigration crisis that isn’t discussed. It is critical for advocates—particularly immigration advocates—to see and hear about these conditions so we can better serve the immigrant and minority communities we represent.”
Oscar Chacón, executive director of Alianza Americas, urges people to extend thee connections to Central Americans living in the United States—particularly the 300,000 people who have lived and worked under TPS status decades—to understand how our stories and experiences connect across borders.
Personal connections will power urgently-needed policy changes necessary to protect these families before TPS programs for El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti end in 2019.
“Stand in solidarity with TPS holders, get to know them, and understand that many of these people have children who were born in the United States,” Chacón said. “If we were horrified by the separation of 2,500 children from their families on the border recently, imagine what will happen when we are talking about hundreds of thousands of US children that could also be separated. I think we can stop this, but it will take active involvement from everyone.”
Alianza Americas remains committed to fostering transnational dialogue and cross-border exchanges to build bridges and dialogue on issues—particularly poverty, violence, and inhumane migration policies—that challenge our hemisphere. Your support as an #AllyAcrossBorders helps make delegations like this possible. Consider making a monthly donation to ensure the sustainability of Alianza America’s work across the Americas.