Thursday, June 26, 2014

When we look at migrants, we see our nation’s history


Best piece I've read to date on what to do about the building humanitarian crisis on our border.  Temporary protected status, allowing the newest immigrants, or rather, "war refugees" into our country is a solution, indeed.

-Angela

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by JENNIFER HARBURY
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When we look at migrants, we see our nation’s history

by JENNIFER HARBURY
Although we Texans are a diverse lot, we have all been moved by the plight of the desperate young mothers and vulnerable teenagers arriving our border in recent weeks. Public comments, however, reflect a worrisome lack of information.
 First, we must understand that these new immigrants are not criminals. They are war refugees fleeing the brutal drug wars in their homelands. The cartels of Central America and Mexico have long targeted local adolescents to work for them, and resistance results in death. If we read the statistics, a 15-year-old boy in Honduras would in fact be safer in Syria. Worse yet, the kind of femicide we saw in Juarez, Mexico, is now the norm for women in Central America as well. Parents are sending their children north on the nightmarish train ride because there is no alternative.
 
 We are prohibited by international law from returning people to a country where they face persecution or torture. This is not a knee-jerk nicety. After all, sending the refugee boat back to Nazi Germany is not one of our more shining moments. There are, however, reasonable solutions. One immediate and time-tested approach would be to grant Temporary Protected Status to persons in danger of harm by the narco-cartels. This would allow the refugees to work to support themselves and remain safe for a few years, when their situation can be re-evaluated. We have done this successfully before. Likewise we should not be shy about calling in the United Nations or the Red Cross to assist us.
 
 We must also get over the idea that “outsiders” are a bad thing for our country. It’s a pretty silly position for anyone except Native Americans. The Puritans were religious refugees, and most colonists were fleeing either persecution or poverty. Devastating wars and natural disasters brought continuing waves of newcomers, including my father, who was then 11. They survived, thrived, and contributed. This is our national heritage. People who were safe, wealthy and happy in the Old World had no motive to mosey over here. 
 
Last, many people urge that we increase financial aid to these countries and help establish a more democratic society with a stronger economy. That won’t work. We Americans are the drug consumers, and we spend a pretty penny on these ugly habits. There will always be drug lords as long as we are paying.
 Importantly, we must remember our own disturbing historical role. The people of Central America worked valiantly for basic labor rights, racial equality and educational programs. They were brutally put down by military dictatorships backed by the United States. Declassified documents indicate that in Guatemala, the CIA helped to carry out a bloody military coup in 1954 to oust just such a reformist president. We then continued to fund an army that carried out a well-documented campaign of genocide against its own citizenry.
 
Some of the bloodiest military officers became involved in the drug trade early on. The Zetas who now terrorize us on the border were armed and trained by Guatemalan Kaibiles, who were in turn armed and trained by, well, us. My husband, a Mayan resistance leader, was tortured to death in Guatemala in the 1990s. One of his torturers, Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez, appears on the DEA’s corrupt officer list, but was long permitted to reside in the U.S. After all, as public records indicate, he also worked as a paid informant for the CIA. Apparently that puts him and others off limits.
HARBURY IS A FORMERAUSTINITE, WHO IS NOW AN ATTORNEY IN WESLACO.

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