Central American Leaders Seek U.S. Reform while Their Own People Seek Security at Home

By Jerry Kammer on June 19, 2014

The president of El Salvador has announced that when he and other Central American leaders meet Friday with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, he will push for U.S.immigration reform to provide legal status for illegal immigrants and allow the children they left behind to join them.

"For us it is important to insist that the USA must open the way for a true immigration reform," President Sanchez Ceren said, according to the Salvadoran newspaper La Prensa Grafica. (All translations are mine.) "We need to see the willingness of the United States to act and the legal mechanisms that permit family unification."

Meanwhile, Honduran human rights commissioner Roberto Herrera is calling on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to intercede on behalf of Honduran children being held at U.S. facilities after being apprehended by the Border Patrol for entering the United States illegally. American authorities there are screening the children and turning them over to relatives when possible, even as they assert that the children are subject to deportation.

"We have to be vigilant so that neither the physical nor mental health of the children is affected, and that they always have their parents nearby," Herrera said. He also called on the International Red Cross to ensure safe conditions for children in U.S. custody.

Meanwhile, one of the lead stories in the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre, reported complaints from Guatemalans that their own government has been unable to provide for the safety of their children within Guatemala. A photograph that accompanied the story shows a young girl holding a hand-made sign that reads "No more robberies. We want safety. Do something, authorities."

The story told of a school whose students have daily encounters with "robberies, violence, and extortion because of the lack of security and guards." It reported that other schools are experiencing thefts of computers, electrical items and even cable wiring" in addition to efforts by gangs to recruit students.

The story lends credence to reports that Central Americans — whose numbers crossing the U.S. border illegally have spiked dramatically in recent weeks, after a slow climb for the past three years — are heading north, in part, for their personal safety. It also lends credence to criticism that Central American governments are failing to provide basic security for their people.

The Central American press, always attentive to the immigrant communities in the United States, is also reporting on encouraging incremental developments that have been achieved despite the failure of efforts to pass a comprehensive reform bill.

Prensa Grafica, published in San Salvador, reports today about a new ordinance in Washington, D.C., that will allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. And Prensa Libre of Guatemala City is welcoming a campaign in New York State to make illegal immigrants citizens of that state.

A story on a website of travel journalism, originally posted last year but still available provides evidence of the size and reach of Guatemalan immigration networks with this observation: "It seems everyone I meet in Guatemala has family in the United States or is making their own plans to migrate."