Countless editorials anguish over what to do with the thousands of unaccompanied Central American children surrendering at the southern border.
Some analysts agree we should send a few million dollars to fund youth centers and other anti-gang efforts in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras where most of the children are from. Politicians are clamoring to swiftly deport the children to discourage others from making the 1,000-mile trek north.
But we owe these children more than a summary deportation. We are tripping over our own history in failing to acknowledge how U.S. foreign policy helped create the path that is leading the children to us. It is well documented that, in its then anti-communist frenzy, the United States deeply supported right-wing dictatorships that fueled decades of civil war in the 1970s and 1980s, especially in El Salvador and Guatemala, making the whole region vulnerable to what we see now — weak governments, regional gang warfare and a booming drug trade. Guatemala is still reeling from its 34,000 “disappeared” and 200,000 killed during a 36-year civil war.
The U.S.-backed Salvadoran military, between 1979 and 1983 alone, killed up to 50,000 civilians in what would be a 12-year civil war. Ironically, as the U.S. seeks to deport Salvadoran children, it granted asylum and military honors to the former Salvadoran Defense Minister, Jose Garcia, and National Guard Director, Carlos Vides, who were in office at the height of the killings. The Miami Immigration Court just this year found them to be human-rights violators and ordered them deported, but they are appealing.
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Jordana A. Hart, co-chair, Media Advocacy Committee, South Florida chapter, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Miami