As news that caravans of Honduran migrants are setting off from Honduras, traveling through Guatemala and Mexico on their way to the United States, we as U.S. people of faith affirm their right to travel safely and seek protection. Rooted in our faith traditions that call for the protection of human life and values of hospitality, compassion, and solidarity with the poor, migrant, and marginalized, we call on the U.S., Guatemalan, and Mexican governments to allow all migrants to safely pursue their rights to protection, asylum, and due process under international law. It is our faith traditions that call us to welcome the migrant and to treat them not as the “other” but the face of God. We are also called to take co-responsibility for our brothers and sisters as so many faith communities and shelters in Guatemala and Mexico are doing as we speak.
We acknowledge that their act of migration is an act of courage and sacrifice in the face of countless dangers made even more perilous by billions of dollars spent on checkpoints, border enforcement, and detention centers in the United States and in Mexico and Guatemala with U.S. funding. The fact that people are still coming, points to the deep and compelling social, economic, and political reasons in Honduras that are forcing people to flee.
Over 40% of Hondurans face desperate poverty. Others are suffering from the spread of gang violence which began in the major cities of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, but has since spread into rural areas and across the country. Extortion and regular death threats have sadly become a part of daily life for many Hondurans.
These realities are a direct result of actions of the Honduran government of Juan Orlando Hernandez and the U.S. government’s long standing support for Honduran political and economic actors who bear responsibility for the root causes of migration from Honduras: the widespread impunity, political corruption, the erosion of democratic institutions, attacks on and assassinations of journalists, widespread human rights violations, and an economic agenda that has sold off mining concessions and natural resources forcing the displacement of indigenous and poor Hondurans.
The United States has been complicit by supporting the coup to remove democratically-elected President Mel Zelaya from power in 2009, financing a misdirected Alliance for Prosperity in 2015, and going against the recommendation of the Organization of American States to legitimize the illegitimate re-election of Juan Orlando Hernandez in December 2017. Such actions have created a destructive environment impeding the authentic human development in Honduras.
Without addressing these problems, it is illusory to believe that the the flow of migrants will stop. We condemn the Trump administration’s reckless and dangerous threats calling on the Honduran, Guatemalan, and Mexican governments to stop migrants. This increases the real life dangers these migrants already face.
U.S. military and security aid to Honduras should be and should have been halted long ago, as called for by 51 members of Congress who co-sponsored the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act calling for an end to U.S. military aid until human rights violations by Honduran security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice.
We stand by the right of persons to migrate safely and with dignity. Migrants should be allowed entry and rights to pursue asylum claims without being deterred on the way or detained or separated from their children in camps at the border. Families who come should be released after inspection to reunite with family members already in the U.S. or other sponsors.
An excellent alternative to incarceration exists in the recently proposed “No Internment Camps Act” legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (Oregon). It would ensure that no federal monies would be used for the operation or construction of family detention centers and create a one-year phase-out of currently operating family detention centers in Pennsylvania and Texas. It would transfer funds used to operate these detention centers to re-establish the Family Case Management Program which was disbanded by the Trump Administration in June 2017.
We ask faith communities in the United States to prepare for and advocate for the arrival of the caravans in several ways. First, we encourage faith communities to intentionally include the needs of migrants in their weekly prayers and to make plans for how they will support newly arrived migrants in concrete ways. Secondly, connect with us and other organizations that work closely with migrants to stay informed about ways in which you can support migrants arriving and getting released from detention. Finally, we urge faith communities to contact their legislators and encourage them to co-sponsor both the “No Internment Camps” and “Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras” legislation and to stop turning a blind eye to the repression and root causes in Honduras.
Since 2015, our organization has helped dozens of Honduran migrants who have fled to the U.S. and come to California. We have led four visits of faith leaders to Honduras to more clearly understand the root causes of migration and real solutions from those most affected. We invite you to join us in these efforts.
Please consider traveling with us to Honduras next March 2019 for our next Root Cause of Migration pilgrimage to meet with organizations working to build a more hopeful and nonviolent political, economic, and cultural reality in Honduras — so that people aren’t forced to migrate.