The Children in Cages

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By Oscar López Rivera

Dear Karina:

I did not have the fortune of being near you while you were growing up. When you were very small I only saw you from time to time, two or three times a year, through a glass. But even in those brief visits, seeing you small and fragile, it horrified me to think that something could happen to you or that someone could do you harm.

All of us who are parents and grandparents feel horror at the scenes that are taking place in Gaza. When I see those small bodies — wounded or enshrouded — I also think of the tragedy of those immigrant children. I often ask myself, “Who cares about the fate of those Central American children, who are being caged like dogs for the simple act of crossing the border?”

In some cases, the media coverage fuels the rejection that so many people feel toward the undocumented people who enter their territory. Most politicians are using this crisis to gain votes. Take the example of Marcos Rubio, the young Republican of Florida. He is not satisfied with the walls that that are being erected at the border or the investment of millions of dollars to militarize the zone. He wants even more: more soldiers and more militarization. In Texas, they mobilize the National Guard. But what about those 55,000 children who have traveled alone, escaping hunger and violence, and who are being “warehoused” until they are deported?

The people and the news media should ask themselves about the role that the US government played in the war of El Salvador during the decades of the 70s and 80s. They should also ask themselves what forces were behind the coup d’état that brought down President Zelaya in Honduras. And finally, they should ask what interests are moving the drug market in the US, and for what purpose this money is used. Once these questions have been answered candidly, it will be very easy to conclude why children from all of those countries are the principal victims of Washington’s and Wall Street’s policies.

For example, let’s take  the problem of the juvenile gangs. They never had any problems with gangs in El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala until the US government started deporting the juvenile delinquents who had come from Central America. They were children who had grown up in the US, with different values and profound problems of marginalization and discrimination. When they were returned to their countries of origin they barely spoke Spanish or knew anything about their roots. They didn’t have anyone to help them adapt to their new reality. So they dedicated themselves to doing what they knew best: organize the gangs, which are now causing the grave problem of violence in the region. These gangs are also involved in drug trafficking, moving many of the drugs that end up in the US.

The Washington government exported a problem, and now that problem is coming back stronger and even more dangerous. Honduras has the highest crime rate in the world. The very president of the country admits that the children and youth are never safe because of the gangs who are kidnaping them and urges the parents to pay the ransom. This is the reason why so many children are abandoning the country to travel many kilometers in harsh conditions and run the risk of dying on the way.

The US, if it wanted to, could make room for those children. But the politicians only want to be given more money to militarize the borders, hire judges, and build more places to confine these creatures. None of this will resolve the crisis. The children need to be protected, loved, and equipped with the tools that that will make them good citizens. In each of those children I see the love that I have and the fears that parents and grandparents always feel when we think about you, regardless of your age.

In resistance and struggle, your grandfather.

Oscar López Rivera