McALLEN, June 28 - To those who do not believe tens of thousands of children from Central America are coming to the United States to escape violence in their homeland, U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa has a riposte.
Hinojosa visited the McAllen Border Patrol detention center on Friday. At a news conference afterwards he quoted the words of one of the mothers he had met. “I would rather have my child die on the journey to the United States than at my front door.”
In a statement on the surge in undocumented immigrants, the Sisters of Mercy charity group recently cited a report from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This Conference led a delegation to Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras last November to find out why unaccompanied children were leaving those countries at an alarming rate.
Sisters of Mercy said the Catholic Bishops found that while extreme poverty was a push factor, the overriding determinant was “violence at the state and local levels and a corresponding breakdown of the rule of law, (which has) threatened citizen security and created a culture of fear and hopelessness.”
Since 2011, the increase in children immigrants from the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras is up 700 percent for Guatemalans, 930 percent for El Salvadorians, and 1,300 percent for Hondurans, Sisters of Mercy said. “The mass exodus from these three countries mirrors the dramatic increase in violence in the region. Together, they lead the world in homicide rates, with Honduras ranking number one,” Sisters of Mercy said in its statement.
In his remarks, Hinojosa said that just over a month ago he called for a full investigation into reports of mass overcrowding of undocumented immigrants at Border Patrol detention centers in his district. “We learned instantly that this was a severe humanitarian crisis which had started several years ago but has increased more so, by at least 300 percent in the previous two or three months,” Hinojosa said. “Even though this is a complex issue, it is a reminder that as a nation we need to be more engaged in Latin America.”
Hinojosa said Congress also knows that there has been a sharp increase in violence that is driving children to the United States - violence especially in Central America. “Honduras tops the world in the most murders according to the United Nations and El Salvador and Guatemala are not far behind,” Hinojosa said.
The Mercedes, Texas, Democrat said that last week the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, of which he is the chair, held a meeting with ambassadors and their staff from the countries Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico.
“At that meeting they told us that poverty, that violence and active recruitment of children by gangs and the drug cartels are leaving parents with no other choice other than to send their children elsewhere; to the United States, to Mexico, to Panama, to Nicaragua, to Costa Rica, or possibly to Belize. As one parent said, ‘I would rather have my child die on the journey to the United States than at my front door.’ Quote, from one of the parents that talked to us.”
Hinojosa said the United States must deal with unaccompanied children who are already here from Central America humanely. He said this include provide them due process. He also said the federal government needs to work with its Central American and Mexican counterparts to help address the situation.
Hinojosa said many of his Republican colleagues from across the aisle have tried to blame the humanitarian crisis on President Obama’s support for immigration reform. He said that is totally wrong.
“Though that is false, it is true that passing comprehensive immigration reform is part of the solution and we all know that. The parents of some of these unaccompanied children came to the United States to work and left their child in the care of a family member like possibly a grandparent. If comprehensive immigration reform was passed parents would be able to legally petition for their child,” Hinojosa said.
Hinojosa concluded his remarks with these comments:
“We as a society are judged by how we take care of the most vulnerable among us. As Americans we are being judged by the world on how we handle this humanitarian crisis. All eyes are on us, especially here in the Rio Grande Valley. With this I urge all of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, to find effective, wise and compassionate solutions that will help resolve this crisis.”