Honduran Violence and Child Trafficking Major Causes of US Border Surges


Kiln     The southern border surge at the US-Mexico line is something ACORN International knows about firsthand through our work with ACORN Honduras in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, often reported as leading the list of the most violent cities in today’s world.  President Obama asked for almost $4 billion in aid to secure the border, provide housing for children, and speed up hearings, even trying to shame Texas Governor Rick Perry into joining him in rounding up Republican support.  None of which is likely to happen since Speaker John Boehner and the Tea-people want to pretend that the pressure at the border is caused by poor enforcement and the rumors of amnesty for immigrants, neither of which has any factual basis.

One of the reasons for all of these political head fakes and dodges lies in bi-partisan legislation passed by the US Congress in recent years to stop sex trafficking and actually protect children.

“…the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, [was] named for a 19th-century British abolitionist.  Originally pushed by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers as well as by evangelical groups to combat sex trafficking, the bill gave substantial new protections to children entering the country alone who were not from Mexico or Canada by prohibiting them from being quickly sent back to their country of origin.  Instead, it required that they be given an opportunity to appear at an immigration hearing and consult with an advocate, and it recommended that they have access to counsel. It also required that they be turned over to the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the agency was directed to place the minor “in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child” and to explore reuniting those children with family members.

So besides the fact that Obama’s real reputation in this area is as “deporter-in-chief” as reform advocates have called him, the truth is that he in fact is enforcing the law, even though the wild right may want to obscure this fact since their fingerprints are also on some positive legislation that they should be proud of.

But the other reason for the surge, as we know from our work in the colonias in and around San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, is that in the post-golopista period the Honduran various US-backed puppet governments have lost the political support of the people, while the government at every level has also lost the fight to provide minimal public safety.

Nowhere is the flow of departures more acute than in San Pedro Sula, a city in northwestern Honduras that has the world’s highest homicide rate, according to United Nations figures.

Between January and May of this year, more than 2,200 children from the city arrived in the United States, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics, far more than from any other city in Central America.  More than half of the top 50 Central American cities from which children are leaving for the United States are in Honduras. Virtually none of the children have come from Nicaragua, a bordering country that has staggering poverty, but not a pervasive gang culture or a record-breaking murder rate. “Everyone has left,” Alan Castellanos, 27, the uncle of two victims [in San Pedro Sula], said. “How is it that an entire country is being brought to its knees?”

The President is right.  This is a “humanitarian crisis,” but where he is only telling a part of the story is that the real crisis is Central America, and that the Mexican-United States border surge is the tail end of this tragedy.


One thought on “Honduran Violence and Child Trafficking Major Causes of US Border Surges”

  1. Elite Honduran unit works to stop flow of child emigrants to U.S.

    Cindy Carcamo. Los Angeles Times. July 9, 2014

    Empty energy drinks and rusted baby
    formula cans litter the moss-covered banks of the Lempa River near this
    country’s northern border, marking the trails where, until recently,
    migrants — some of them children — made their way into Guatemala on a
    treacherous journey to the United States.

    Today, though, the trails are quiet except for the squawking cacophony of birds.

    An elite unit of the Honduran national
    police, trained and funded by the United States, is making its presence
    felt along the border in a mission to slow down the migrant flow at its
    source. The team, which usually focuses on drug and arms interdiction,
    was deployed just as Americans awoke to a dramatic increase in the
    number of unaccompanied minors streaming into the United States from
    Central America.

    “We are saving the lives of our
    country’s children,” said Noel Hernandez, a first lieutenant with the
    unit, the Honduran Special Tactical Operations Group.

    A little more than two weeks ago, the
    team arrived in the verdant border town around Aguas Calientes to serve
    as the first line of defense in a program dubbed Operation Rescue
    Angels, according to Commissioner Miguel Martinez Madrid, a Honduran
    liaison to the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa and coordinator of the
    special unit.

    “These are little angels. They are not
    conscious of the risks they are taking. We are doing something good,”
    said Martinez Madrid, the father of two young daughters. “These are our
    children. They are the future of our country.”

    According to the national police, the
    team is primarily funded by the U.S. State Department and was trained by
    a U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Unit, known as BORTAC. The team’s aim in
    this operation is to stop the flow not just of unaccompanied minors, but
    of children who head north illegally with only one parent.

    On a recent afternoon, the agents set up
    a checkpoint where a major highway splits toward two separate border
    crossings just south of the town of Ocotepeque.

    Covered with bulletproof vests
    emblazoned with “Police” and badges that read “BORTAC,” the agents waved
    down a late-morning bus bound for Guatemala.

    Among the passengers was Ana Maria
    Ramos, who sighed when the unit pulled her off for questioning. She
    tried to keep her 2-year-old son from wandering away as she answered
    questions about where they were going.

    She said they were bound for Los Angeles
    in an attempt to flee gang violence and crushing poverty back home in
    San Pedro Sula, the second-largest city in Honduras. The homicide rate
    there, the highest in the country, has led to it sometimes being called
    the murder capital of the world.

    “I don’t want my boy to grow up in such a
    violent environment. I don’t want him to see the violence and learn it.
    I don’t want this for my son,” she said.

    She cradled the boy and explained to the
    agents that although she didn’t have his father’s written authorization
    to leave the country, he had given his consent.

    Martinez Madrid nodded but said he couldn’t let her go.

    “If you are going to leave the country,
    you must do it legally,” he told her. The unit then took the two to
    lunch at a diner before handing them over to child welfare authorities
    in Ocotepeque.

    Under the law in Honduras, as in many
    countries, children cannot leave without authorization from both
    parents. A parent attempting to leave the country with a child must have
    a notarized document from the absent parent authorizing the trip for
    the child. The child must also have a valid Honduran passport.

    Unaccompanied children from Honduras and
    throughout Mexico and Central America, often fleeing gang violence and
    hoping to reunite with parents in the United States, have been entering
    the U.S. through the Southwest border for years. But a surge in the last
    few months overloaded Border Patrol stations and detention facilities
    in Texas.

    Under fire from Republicans, including
    Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the White House said Monday that most of the
    young migrants would be deported, although it is unclear whether the
    administration has the legal authority to send them back.

    In the last 17 days, the special
    Honduran unit has stopped 90 children from crossing the northern border
    near Aguas Calientes, some as young as 2 years old. Most are older and
    traveling without a parent. Martinez Madrid acknowledged that it’s a
    drop in a bucket. Still it’s a departure from the easy flow of illegal
    immigration at the border crossing before the unit showed up, he said.

    About a month ago, there was a surge of
    children — some alone and others with their mothers — who easily
    traveled into Guatemala on their way farther north without proper

    Honduran immigration officials largely
    let them leave without enforcing child-trafficking laws. Some took
    bribes. Others chose to simply look the other way, Martinez Madrid said.

    Operation Rescue Angels is the first program of its kind in the region, he said.

    Fourteen agents are stationed at the
    northern border near Aguas Calientes. An additional 13 are assigned to
    the southern border with Nicaragua but are scheduled to move farther
    north and set up impromptu checkpoints on a main highway just north of
    Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital.

    Despite the successes, Martinez Madrid
    said he suspects that the flow may have simply moved to other crossing
    points, such as the border crossing in Corinto, about a four-hour drive
    east from Aguas Calientes.

    The checkpoints leading from San Pedro
    Sula and Tegucigalpa are key to stopping the flow of migration,
    especially since the three top municipalities sending children to the
    U.S. are all in Honduras, according to Pew Hispanic Center researchers
    who analyzed data provided by the Department of Homeland Security.

    San Pedro Sula leads the list, with more
    than 2,200 unaccompanied minors apprehended in the United States
    between January and May, making up an estimated 5% of all apprehended
    children since Oct. 1. Following San Pedro Sula are Tegucigalpa and
    Juticalpa, each with more than 800 apprehended children during the same

    The operation to stop the children had
    been in the works for the last three months after Honduran authorities
    noticed an uptick of youths leaving the country through its northern
    borders, National Police Director General Ramon Sabillon said.

    The plan was accelerated in late May, he
    said, about the same time that U.S. Customs and Border Protection
    officials were taken aback by a sudden rush of children illegally
    entering the U.S. alone or with a single parent along Texas’ Rio Grande

    Sabillon said he asked U.S. Embassy officials in Honduras for help and they complied.

    State Department documents, however,
    show that special tactical units from the Border Patrol have been
    training Honduran border guards since at least 2012. That year, BORTAC
    teams taught at least five courses, each 13 weeks long, training about
    100 Honduran border police officers, according to a published summary of
    the training. It continued in 2013 and ramped up this year.

    The training was funded through a
    program called the Central America Regional Security Initiative. The
    goal of the program is to fix “border security deficiencies” as well as
    disrupt drug and weapons trafficking and organized crime, according to a
    State Department description.

    Since 2008, the State Department has
    spent more than $642 million through the program in Belize, Costa Rica,
    El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. It is unclear
    how much was used to train the Honduran forces.

    A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border
    Protection, Michael Friel, referred questions about the training to the
    State Department, which did not return multiple requests for comment.

    The Honduran police unit arrived in
    Ocotepeque on June 20 — the same day Vice President Joe Biden met with
    Central American leaders in Guatemala to discuss how they could work
    together to address the alarming number of unaccompanied minors coming
    to the U.S. from Central America.

    Damilo Avila Zavala, a 16-year-old
    traveling alone from San Pedro Sula, fit that profile. The agents pulled
    him off a big green bus bound for the Guatemalan border.

    Avila Zavala swore to the agents that he
    was visiting his girlfriend in Ocotepeque and not going farther north.
    She is a U.S. citizen who had family in town.

    He was let go after agents visited the
    girlfriend’s home and confirmed the boy’s story with her family.

    Still, the boy acknowledged that he had
    tried making the illicit journey two years ago but was stopped in
    Chiapas, Mexico, and deported back home. He said he plans to marry his
    girlfriend and go to the U.S. after she sponsors him. If that doesn’t
    work out, he’ll fall back on Plan B.

    He’ll go north, even if it means going illegally and alone.

    Times staff writer Brian Bennett in Washington contributed to this report.

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