Thursday, June 01, 2006

Central Americans In Our Backyard

Mexico is not the only Central Americn country dramatically affected by the United States' proximity to their border. As Congress and the Mexican and Chicano community debate Bush's guest worker bill, the effects of immigration policy are being felt in the Hondurenian immigrant community.

Yesterday, permits expired for about 75,000 Hondurans and 4,000 Nicaraguans who entered the country under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Program, after Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Honduras and particularly Nicaragua are still facing the econommic effects of the Hurricane and depend on the remissions sent by immigrant families here in the States.
Congress is debating now whether the permits will be renewed, allowing the immigrants to live and work legally in the United States for another year. The permits were already extended until April 2007 for the Honduranean immigrants; however, thousands of immigrants have not taken advantage of their option to renew - likely unaware of the change in INS border enforcement.

Central Americans have been crossing borders since the colonization of that region in the 1600's by the Spaniards (and later by the British in Belize/British Honduras) -- both our borders and their own. These migration patterns have both revitalized Central American economies (reducing Central Americans debt burden to the United States) and offered refuge for refugees from wars and conflicts in Guatemala and El Salvadaor, as well as economic refugees in Nicaragua and Honduras. Re-emigration and remittances by outmigrated citizens of these countries have also contributed vastly to these economies. So to both Central Americans and United States citizens this migration is nothing new.

What may be news to some of us North Americans though is what happens when migrants to this country return to their own "homelands" or relocate to other Central American countries after having been in the US. Unfortunately, not all contributions made by Central American returnees reflect well on or benefit the United States. Examples of some effects of returning migrants (both illegal and legal) include the rise of US-model gangs like the Crips and Bloods, which both draw strength and redemption from the transnational links between youth gang and artistic communities.

(You could argue that criminals and outcasts are inclined to whatever lifestyles they eventually take on before they immigrate, but then, you might remember that many migrants are impressionable youth. And you might consider that they're not too different from your neighbor's pre-teen child who got into a scuffle with the police the other day.)

So the emergency permits have expired and many of the hurricane fugitives may be deported, a reminder of the risk that in giving and taking back the benefits of living in this country, we may send the "externalities" of our modern economy back across the borders.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:31 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home