By the Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Social Movements in Defense of Humanity (U.S. Chapter)
June 24, 2018
The Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Social Movements in Defense of Humanity expresses its concern about the treatment at the United States border of immigrants fleeing from violence in their home countries, particularly from Central America and Mexico.
We express our horror at the separation of children from their parents – an experience from which these children may never fully recover, especially as it has been reported that many of these children, once in custody, have been subject to physical and psychological abuse, including sexual assault and the forcible injection of drugs.
In the last months, we have witnessed the grossest violation of human rights against immigrant families, particularly children as young as 3 months old. It is unacceptable for any decent person to allow the suffering that this new policy have caused to thousands of families to continue.
The outrage was so widespread nationally and internationally that President Trump was forced to change his position on the issue. On June 20 he announced that children will not be separated from his/her parents, but the order will lead to the indefinite detention of entire families. In addition, the Trump administration has not outlined any plans to reunite immigrant children who were already separated from their families. At least 2,300 children have been separated from their parents since the United States Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, announced his “zero tolerance” policy in April.
Moreover, while it appears that the current solution is to jail families together, this is not proper either. These families crossing the border are not criminals, nor are they somehow subhuman as comments made by Trump about their allegedly threatening to “infest” the US strongly suggests. Rather, these are people who are desperately fleeing terrible situations in their country of origin – situations which the US played a key role in creating.
It is crucial that the US start to own up to how it has damaged the countries of Central America and Mexico from which these families are fleeing. There is no dispute about the fact that the US, through its support of death squad states in El Salvador and Guatemala during the 1980’s and early 1990’s, created an environment of brutal violence from which these countries have yet to recover. All told, around 75,000 civilians were murdered in El Salvador, largely by state forces that the US supported.
In Guatemala, around 200,000 people, mostly Mayan Indians, were murdered in what former President Bill Clinton later admitted was a genocide. In addition, young Salvadorians who came to the United States during the civil war became gang members as part of the culture facing their communities. In the ’90s, as the gang phenomenon got more complicated, the U.S. started deporting gang members who had committed crimes and murders in the U.S. back to El Salvador. Many of the women who come to the United States with their young children do so because of gang violence.
Meanwhile, the US also supported repressive forces in Honduras during the same period, and then, in 2009, supported a military coup which unseated a democratically-elected President and which instituted a period of repression which continues to this day.
In Mexico, US agricultural trade policies under NAFTA destroyed the livelihood of about 2 million small farmers, who then moved to cities ill-equipped to care for and employ them. This social dislocation has devastated the social fabric of Mexico. On top of this, the US has sponsored a drug war which relies on repressive security forces in Mexico. Brutal violence has arisen from this war, including the killing of 100,000 people and the forced disappearance of tens of thousands.
US economic and military policies have been imposed by local political and military elites in many Latin American and Caribbean countries. The elites have benefited while the majority have suffered and been denied basic safety and security.
Far from viewing the individuals and families fleeing such countries as criminals and interlopers, the US should welcome them as a very small gesture of atonement for what our nation has done to theirs. It is high time that the US recognize how it has spawned the mass immigration in our hemisphere, as well as in Europe where people are fleeing the numerous wars which the US has been waging in The Middle East and Northern Africa since 1990.
The US, which claims to espouse Judeo-Christian values, must take responsibility for the violence it has brought upon the world and the mass emigration which has flowed from it.
The Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Social Movements in Defense of Humanity demands that the thousands of children who have already been separated from their parents be located and immediately reunited with their families.
Raise your voice, organize your civic and religious organizations and demand that U. S. policy makers, both Republican and Democrat, abandon the cruel and inhumane incarceration of immigrant adults and children. Let us legalize and normalize the lives of millions of decent, hardworking immigrants forced to live in the shadows of U. S. society. Let us develop a humane immigration policy. Let us work toward a more just, tolerant and equal world both within and beyond the U.S. borders.
Consultant: Cultural Democracy and Statecraft Heritage Policy, African Diaspora
Historian, author of Cuba and the U.S. Empire: A Chronological History
Former Bishop of Detroit
Cultural Worker, host of Radio KPOO in San Francisco and Radio Bilingue in Oakland
Author and lecturer
Professor Emeritus, Retired, Sociology
Former Mayor of Richmond, CA
Executive Director, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law
International Vice President of Workers United-SEIU
Program Director & Faculty Advisor, Clinica Martin-Baro, SFSU-UCSF
Lecturer and writer
Labor and human rights lawyer, teaches International Human Rights at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law