Deporting undocumented youth who have escaped third-world violence and poverty to create a life for themselves that includes unified families, American-born siblings, and strong roots in this country is unacceptable.
If ever there was a time for a kind-hearted person that could and should benefit from President Obama’s newly revised removal guidelines and changes in deportation priorities it is Ivan Satizabal (A#098-98-9634). Growing up and trying to make a life is hard enough for any teenager. Ivan, like so many other Honduran youth, did not have much of a chance at an innocent childhood and suffered a traumatic adolescence before his arrival in the U.S.
He was targeted and highly recruited to join the ranks of the swelling Central American gang community. Ivan was fortunate to attain temporary protective status and come to the U.S. in 2005. Since then, his former country has gotten exponentially worse.
Gangs depend on violence, intimidation and harassment, and a willingness to defend their homeboys to the death. This is what Ivan would encounter were he to be returned to Honduras. The Mara Salvatrucha Trece, more commonly referred to as MS-13, is a quintessential example of fearful curiosity, capturing the attention of Central America and the United States in recent years. MS-13’s territory has exploded far beyond its original territories in Los Angeles and its influence can be felt throughout El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico and most of the United States. The antagonism between MS-13 and their main rival the Mara Dieciocho, or the 18th Street gang, have sent bloody ripples from urban immigrant enclaves in California to shantytowns in Central America, claiming thousands of lives in between.
Alarmed governments, law enforcement agencies, military advisors, religious institutions and concerned citizens are all trying to get a grasp on the emergent narratives of the both of these gangs and their seemingly unstoppable and wide diffusion. It is this catch-22 that created the conditions for Ivan to leave Honduras in 2005 and why we cannot allow him to be deported back to one of the deadliest countries on earth in 2012.
Just one last example: on December 3, 2011 while most American citizens were preparing for the holidays and most students were cramming for final exams at schools and universities throughout the country a female Peace Corps volunteer was on a bus in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Suddenly the bus was robbed and as a result the volunteer was shot in the leg during yet another armed robbery in the city.
Since the military coup in 2009, Honduras has increasingly become more violent and has experienced more crime and insecurity than any other nation on the planet whose murder rate went up 30 percent. The drug-money-fueled gang wars, targeted political assassinations, and bloody land conflicts have so destabilized the nation so much that many international organizations are pulling back their aid and personnel. The U.S. Peace Corp this month pulled more than 150 volunteers from Honduras, who it said was the most deadly country on the planet. According to a 2011 United Nations report, Honduras has the world’s highest homicide rate with 81.2 homicides for every 100,000 residents and had a whopping 86 murders per 100,000 inhabitants at the end of 2011 according to the UN-backed Violence Observatory in Tegucigalpa.
These factors are among many that feed the cycle of violence suffocating Honduras and bleeds into Central America and other regions of the globe. Shreds of promise exist in an amazingly resilient Honduran populace, who despite their battered history, refuses to give up hope. Imagining and working towards a vision of a shared future, in which daily survival and sustenance are guaranteed for everyone and all U.S. citizens and Honduran refugees can enjoy freedom from violence may seem utopian. Nevertheless this must become a sustaining vision. Cynicism and intolerance displayed by deporting Ivan will only breed more violent death in Honduras.