Guest Opinion: Refugee children at our border
“Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States.”
The poet, Porfirio Diaz, many years ago, so well expressed the situation below our southern border. Following him, in 1981, novelist Robert Stone in his novel, “A Flag for Sunrises,” — imagined the state of “Tecan” — prophetically — as a combination of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, the homeland states of almost all of those thousands of children now languishing at our side of the border.
“Every time this colossus of the north turns in its bed,” he wrote, “poor little Tecan is practically overthrown. The American presence is serving its own interests as it sees them, but without actually meaning to, it is inflicting great hardship on ‘Tecan’ ... We’ve been sending in the Marines and pushing people around in Central America and we are going to eventually have to pay a price for it.”
Of course, it is the terrorized people of “Tecan” who pay the greatest price for our ruthless, corrupt economic and military imperialism in that area. Americans, I am sure, are unfamiliar with our awful record of oppression and exploitation in “that area.” President Ronald Reagan supported the early 1980s genocide of the Mayo-Ixil Indians in Guatemala. Nothing new there. Robert Parry writes, “In the 1970s and 1980s, as Latin American security forces were sharpening themselves into finely-honed killing machines,” American leaders like Reagan at once supported their atrocities and looked the other way. Not much has changed over the decades since.
Today, there are over 40,000 children huddled just over our border, mainly from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, that “triangle” of victimized states just south of Mexico, Those children today perfectly fit the usual definition of “refugees.” They are fleeing the violence, the perils, the drug wars, the murders, the corruption, the disgusting death-threatening political, social and economic conditions of their homelands. They are in fact escaping from the violence, the drug gangs, the political corruption, the repressive and ugly conditions of life that their governments, with American support, inflict upon them.
Their parents and relatives and others pooled their paltry resources to pay for the children’s journey to make the long journey to America — so near and yet so far away. To say that America has welcomed and opened our hearts and purses to these desperate, frightened, impoverished, wounded child-victims would be a gross caricature. Rather, the dominant expression, as our media announce it, is “Kick ‘em out and back to where they came from.” Throw them back to Honduras, the world “murder capital” by far; back to El Salvador, which is experienced in genocide; back to Guatemala, where 98 percent of crimes are not prosecuted; back to “Tecan” where there are 85,000 gang members. And thousands of drug mobsters caught in America were simply sent back to “Tecan” in the past decade
President Teddy Roosevelt had extended the reach of the Monroe Doctrine to include Central America: No other nations were to be allowed to exploit those nations and their people. Only America and American corporations were enabled to do that. What crimes and follies have since rained down on those poor people.
As a first remedy, those 40,000 children must be rescued and taken into America and fed, housed, clothed, cared for, educated and allowed finally, and in good time, to be joined by their parents. Anything less would be a disgraceful crime. The second and as important remedy is for America to cease destroying the basis of civil life in “Tecan.”
Gerald Cavanaugh lives in Ashland.