During the first weekend of January – a time where there is an air of optimism as people make resolutions for the new year – many Central American families were struck with fear. In late December, news broke that the Obama administration planned to raid the homes of adults and children who had been ordered to be removed by an immigration judge, many of whom were Central American children and mothers fleeing gang violence in their native homes in 2014.
On Latino USA’s latest episode, “There and Back,” Maria Hinojosa and crew take a closer look at how the United States is handling the latest wave of Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Guatemalans seeking asylum. In summer 2014, many unaccompanied minors made the journey from their native homes to the United States.
“You might remember that back then, the White House called this influx a humanitarian crisis,” Hinojosa said. “Now, more than a year later, we’re not hearing as much about this anymore, but one crisis that has been making headlines is the Syrian refugee crisis.” While people argue about how the United States should handle Syrians fleeing a deadly civil war, the plight of Central Americans has been overshadowed. This is despite the fact that El Salvador has now surpassed Honduras as the murder capital of the world.
Before delving into where Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador currently stand, Hinojosa looked to the 80s – a time when the United States, fearful of the countries falling under communist rule, intervened and provided military aid and training to the authoritarian governments. “At that time, Honduras wasn’t going through a war,” Hinojosa said. “The United States, though, began to use it as a kind of home base for all the military activity that it was doing in Central America, and all of this set off a wave of refugees that fled from Guatemala and El Salvador to the United States.”
Today, Central Americans are still feeling the effects, and they have once again fled to the United States in droves. Gang violence – specifically the U.S.-born gang Mara Salvatrucha – is the top reason children and mothers have chosen the dangerous path to the United States.
The hour-long episode includes interviews with a 14-year-old Guatemalan girl who has been deported from Mexico twice in a three-week span, a former MS13 gang member, and others who help paint a full picture of Central America’s present. Check out “There and Back” below: