I read many reflections, blogs and printed materials over the course of each week, mostly having to do with Nicaragua and various forms of aid and development work being done there. Some are very good and others less so, but I came across one a few days ago that I think bears repeating here. It is taken from the newsletter published by the Center for Development in Central America (CDCA), which has worked in Nicaragua for the past twenty years as of 2014. CDCA has worked tirelessly on behalf of impoverished Nicaraguans on many fronts, and Winds of Peace has been able to work with them on several projects over the years.
I have reproduced reflections from their newsletters in the past, and I do so here with an analysis for your consideration which gets straight to the heart of a major U.S./Central American policy issue, the immigration of Central American children.
There are many issues around the response of the government of the United States and many of its people regarding the children crossing the border: immigrants vs. refugees, corrupt Central American governments (and yes they are still propped up by the U.S. government as they have been for 100 years), drug trafficking, gangs, Democrats vs. Republicans.
So many issues bandied about and yet- in reality- the only issue that exists is: do we welcome the stranger? The child? Or do we not? That’s it. Simple. Clean. Do we or do we not?
People frequently ask us why we like living in Nicaragua. Well, this is one reason: Nicaragua DOES welcome refugees. Let’s face it, people fleeing their poor countries have to be mighty desperate to come to Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. But they do come and they are coming and Nicaragua, more than any other Central American country, affords them more access to their social safety nets- such as they are.
What does that say when the second poorest nation is receiving refugees while the richest is turning children away? What does that say about the soul of the richest nation?
The leaders of the Nicaraguan government, who are not perfect by any means, understand what it means to live under dictators, death squads, terror and horror, and they translate that understanding into action by welcoming others who are living it now.
Why would you send your children on such a dangerous journey with strangers? Mine are grown, and the only reason I would send them thousands of miles away, riding on top of trains, would be if I thought…no, if I KNEW…they would die if they stayed. Do the people in the States who debate this “crisis” and advocate deporting the children really believe in their hearts that Central American families love their children less than they love their own?
Frankly, the only actual crises are the crises in the nations from which the children come… not in the U.S.
In Honduras, the city of San Pedro Sula has more murders per capita than any other place in Honduras, which has more murders per capita than any other country in the world. During July alone, in this small country, 87 teens and children were murdered, some tortured, and the vast majority of the culprits were not found.
And this is where the first nine children were deported to… San Pedro Sula. Depending on accounts, 5 or 7 of the nine were killed soon after landing. Killed. We, the U.S., sent children back to be murdered. Does this mean that the deportation will stop? No, it does not.
Choosing whether or not to welcome these refugees is easy. Choosing whether or not to deport these children to die is simple. This is not a complicated issue… we are not in muddy water here, folks… it is a clean issue, because there is really and truly only one right place to stand… with the kids… we need to stand with the kids.
Who are the strangers we encounter? And what should we do with the stranger….?