Commentary: Why Honduran children are coming to U.S.

July 22, 2014

By the Rev. Juan Guerrero - TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -United Methodist News Service

These days, there is extensive reporting on children crossing the border and entering the United States undocumented. It is said that U.S. immigration services have intercepted in the past year more than 50,000 undocumented children.

A few days ago, I was in Texas visiting Methodist communities on the border, both Anglo and Hispanic. I also visited a shelter where I had a chance to talk, see and learn different points of view.

In the United States, some see this humanitarian disaster as a policing and security problem, and argue for more border controls, more laws that allow police to quickly deport these children. Others want a more humane and compassionate response.

Since a large number of children crossing the border are from Honduras, you ask me, as United Methodist superintendent of Honduras: How can the United Methodist Mission in Honduras bring understanding and solution to this humanitarian crisis?

It is hard to imagine that these children leave home to undertake such a dangerous, long and expensive trip.

The first thing I can answer is obvious, that the kids go because their parents live in the U.S., and they leave Honduras because there are no opportunities, no dignity. They leave because here there is hunger, violence and poverty. But maybe it's good to reflect a little on the causes of poverty in Honduras.

Wealth and exploitation

The first foreigner to set foot on Honduran soil was Christopher Columbus and was amazed at the wealth and fertility,but after five centuries this wealth has never been for the service of the Honduran people.

In the 19th century in Honduras, the term "banana republic" was born because the Americans in the late 18th century installed banana plantations in the style of the slave plantations in the southern U.S. And until today the owners of the best lands are American banana and small Honduran elites living in the U.S. and exploiting the land renter mentality, in order to get resources, without reinvesting in the country.

In the 19th century, the U.S. Embassy in Honduras was next to the largest gold mine in the Americas, in San Juancito. People wonder why the embassy was away from the capital city and next to a gold mine. Simple: because there were American corporations that exploited these mines. Honduras is poor because the wealth of this country was taken and not reinvested here.

Today, neither the banana nor gold is the main generator of foreign exchange, nor coffee, nor the cultivation of African palm. Today, the largest source of dollars entering the country is by way of remittances from undocumented immigrants living in the United States. In economic terms, the poor who migrate are today the greatest wealth of Honduras, because the U.S. needs cheap labor to harvest crops and construct buildings. The dollars that undocumented migrants send to their families are dollars that move the Honduran economy. It is a paradox.

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