(AV17366) Immigration and Survival: An Alternative Perspective from Central America


I’d like to welcome all tonight on
behalf of the Catholic student community st. Thomas and the Committee on lectures
I’d like to welcome all of you tonight tonight’s speaker has been devoted his
life to social justice and the service of others he’s been an active member of
the Ames community for the past 24 years and served as the campus minister at st.
Thomas until he moved to Honduras this past June to work as a lay missionary as
immigration becomes a hot-button issue in this election John is here to talk to
us about an alternate perspective from Central America from his work in El
Salvador and Honduras please join me in welcoming back John Donaghey thank you for your warm I mean I mean
cold welcome back when Nora sent me the the title I was
sort of like oh my gosh what can I say about that even though I have lots of
opinions about it but then three things happen well one of them happened before
I got this know this note from Nora the first thing is one of the things I do is
visit rural communities and once I visited a community called Sun one and
in that community the first house that I dropped into I sat down there and talked
to the woman in the house and she said yes I have two brothers and a sister in
the United States two of them are in Minnesota working in a turkey plant okay
and then I managed to find out in that community of 600 there were 28 people in
the United States oh but one men there were also seven men in jail from that
community so it’s a very interesting thing then about two weeks ago January
15th I was taking a bus ride from San Pedro Sula and the north coast of
Honduras to where I’m living the bus went goes on to Guatemala to the border
and I said as I walked into the bus I saw a number of young men in the back
with those athletic tee shirts on and I saw I thought oh no it’s a bunch of gang
members back there no it wasn’t and finally I figured out what it was and
speaking briefly to the young man next to me he said yes I’m going to Guatemala
and I said oh and where are you going to Mexico and I asked him a Massiah and
further on and he said he shook his head yes and he said he had tried four times
and this was his fifth attempt to go to the US and then Friday on the 18th of
January I went to get a blood test got up there at 7 o’clock in the morning and
talked to the woman who was taking blood and she asked me where
from I said the US and she said oh yeah I have a brother in Mississippi it is
not uncommon in Honduras and in many parts of Latin America to run into
people who have relatives brothers sisters fathers occasionally mothers
children in the US and one of the more interesting things happened when I told
people I was coming back for a short visit to the United States they asked me
I don’t know how many times will you carry me with you
and I said you don’t fit in my suitcase and they said well will still take me
some of it was joking and some of it was very very serious what I’m doing in
Honduras is is is as a lay Catholic missionary with the Catholic Diocese of
Santa Rosa I’m helping in some way to facilitate
relationships between the Diocese of Santa Rosa and the Catholic Church he
renamed st. Thomas I’m doing that partly by working in campus ministry with the
Catholic University in the town and helping on weekends in a parish that has
five towns in 41 rural villages and in some ways I’m acting as a bridge between
st. Thomas and Ames and Santa Rosa dekopon and that whole western part of
Honduras this western part of Honduras has about a million Catholics and
probably about maybe a hundred thousand non Catholics in the area very
mountainous it’s also the poorest part of the country the town where I live in
and what’s the center of this the commercial center of the area Santa Rosa
dekopon has between 25 and 35 thousand people depending upon the time of the
year whether weather school and maleic but one of the things is just to give
you an idea in terms of not just that but in terms of Honduras Honduras is a
little smaller than Iowa but Iowa’s flat in Honduras is mountainous but also
Honduras has more than twice as many people as Iowa close to seven and a half
million inhabitants but what’s interesting when I looked at
the statistics I found that there about in nineteen in 2005 there about three
hundred seventy eight thousand six hundred and five Hondurans in the US
that was one figure it’s probably a little bit larger but that was a thirty
five percent increase from the year 2000 now I’m just going to be talking a
little bit about Honduras as one example it’s I think it’s a little different
than Mexico and El Salvador because there are fewer from Honduras in the
United States but still I think it’s it gives you an idea in terms of why people
come and the like and so we’re talking about over a quarter of a million people
from Honduras in the US it was estimated at one time within New Orleans before
Katrina 120,000 Hondurans lived there many of them they’ve laid there in
Virginia in the Carolinas and Los Angeles that’s where you find most of
the Hondurans well what one more interesting things as opposed to many of
the people in in this country from Central and South America those who
arrived in this country before 1999 have what’s called temporary protective
status that is they cannot if they register and are not guilty of any
felonies or other crimes and the like they can stay in this country for a
certain amount of time they were granted that because in 1988 there was a major
hurricane which are going to mention Hurricane Mitch which devastated
Honduras and many other parts of Central America so as a an act of compassion the
the US government granted these two Hondurans who had been there before 1999
but many have come since then that means they can stay here and it was recently
extended until January 2009 so it’s not a definite thing and it could be done
and and in in terms of the immigration debate it might be interesting to
consider this as an example of what has been done for people who are in this
country without papers for a granted temporary protective status but one of
the things I’ve heard is that on an average 185,000 Hondurans leave their
country here some to Spain some to the US many
to the US some New Mexico and some to other places but an average of 81 are
deported from the US each day that’s about twenty nine point five thousand a
year so you can see the difference of the people who come here but for me the
question the really important question if you’re going to talk about
immigration is what moves people to leave family to me leave home to leave
connections especially among people who have a very strong sense of family what
moves people to make a hazardous journey through Mexico and often through the
deserts of the southwest what moves them to do that if you want to get an idea of
what that’s like especially through Mexico I heartily
recommend the book and Riki’s journey by Sonia Nazario it’s a very very
interesting account of a 15 year old Honduran boy trying to reach his parents
in his mother who was in Carolina Enrique’s journey I heartily recommend
it because it gives you an idea of what it’s like but why do they come I really
think I would say two words desperation and hope there’s hope because of
according to a recent survey about 90 percent of them want work and are
seeking work and that’s what I hear from people you know we want to work we want
to find a way to get work to feed our family to give something for them and
you have to realize that that what they’re doing is they’re coming from one
of the five poorest countries in Latin America hi Haiti of course is the worst
but it’s the third poorest country I believe in all the area and it’s
estimated that 64 percent of the population lives under the poverty line
that means making less than two dollars a day and of this forty five percent
live in extreme poverty and 21 percent live on less than one dollar a day
because a large amount of the people in the countryside are subsistence farmers
and what they’re doing is they’re growing corn and they’re growing beans
to eat and going out in the countryside you see some interesting things you see
a devastated landscape in many many places that the the hillsides basically
DeForest it from a country that is extremely forested with a lot of pine
forests and also some cedar and and even I believe in some areas
mahogany you would find but it’s DeForest it you know many of these
you’ll find people growing corn they don’t grow corn on the flat lands like
we have here what they do but it’s more likely to see it on the on the on the
slopes why because the flatland is often used for cattle grazing so the poor to
grow their corn beans just to subsist will grow their corn and beans on the
slopes and you can figure out what that does for the the ecology and for the
soil and for the like but you but then you do see like on most of the flat
lands you’ll see that the people are growing people many people are or
probably a few people sorry have cattle ranches so you see in a sense one of the
major difficulties and one of the things that’s interesting is the rate of rural
poverty is eighty-one percent as opposed to the sixty four percent I told you
it’s the highest percentage in all of Central America in terms of rural
poverty and Honduras has been poor but that a major setback of Hurricane Mitch
in 1998 and so people will talk about the effects of that hurricane 100 years
I’ve heard me 10 years ago about 7,000 people were killed and 70% of the
country’s crops were destroyed in 90% in the banana crop which was a major export
was destroyed and the damage was estimated at 3 billion dollars setting
development backed by decades now it you know it therefore destroyed roads it
destroyed a whole range of different things and still people and destroyed
people’s homes and the like and so still they’re trying to catch up from 1998 now
that gives you in a sense of what the story is in one degree but the whole
question is what are the real problems what are the
real problems and what do I see and how ever seen them well to give you an idea
in terms of what some of the people think is in the end of November
beginning of December I was at a meeting in the parish where I were I’m helping
out in the weekends and they were talking about planning for the next year
and a group of people were talking about what do we need to do for the social
development for the social justice aspect of our parish and they identified
three needs one of them was the lack of technical assistance in agriculture
the second one was the lack of medical care in the villages I can’t remember
what the third one because they left that that form back in in in Honduras
but one of the other major death major questions is the question of education
but what I thought might want to start out by thinking of is these people are
working many of them are working hard in the countryside many of them are in the
towns are working in some way or other but what why are they not earning enough
to live on in many cases what about salaries they just increase the minimum
wage to in Honduras to 181 dollars a month 181 dollars a month which is just
a little bit more than my rent a little bit less than my rent for a month now I
have a little larger house but most of the people would probably pay about a
third of that for houses in the city but the trouble is the minimum wage only
covers 500,000 people and 40% of the wage earners have wages lower than the
minimum wage something’s wrong but then one of the things that you see is very
interesting as many of the people don’t have regular jobs and what they’ll do is
they’ll they’ll one of the major ways for them to earn cash is to do some of
them is to do construction work but one of the major things is to work in the
coffee harvest the coffee harvest is from November to the end of January the
beginning of February so in about 12 weeks when you are in the
coffee harvest people go out go out and work for others the other people who
have great great and large plant plantations grand thinkers as they
called them there and what you’ll see is people going out in in trucks whole
families men women and children going out to cut to basically to pick the
coffee beans off of the coffee plant they work all day and they may earn
fifty five to eighty dollars a week multiply that by twelve seven hundred
and twenty dollars a yeah they may earn eighty and that’s a high figure I’ve
heard less so you see even if they are able to work in the coffee harvest
there’s really not a lot of lot in terms of living one but if they for example a
couple people that I’ve known and talked to a couple of people they have small
maybe an acre or two acres of coffee and what do they do if they harvest their
own coffee what do they get they get between 55 and 73 cents per pound of
coffee that they harvest how much does a cup of coffee cost here anywhere from a
dollar 25 to 375 right and one pound gets fifty five to seventy three cents
depending upon you know what type of coffee it is and how good it is so you
have great disparity in terms of what they’re doing but in the top of this
cost have risen I when I got in Honduras in June and July I began to go out and
buy groceries a pound of beans and beans and corn are the basics of the diet a
pound of beans was 43 cents November a pound of beans was 79 cents
a basic part of the diet one of the fast foods you might say of Honduras is a
thing called the body a body Addas while the odd azar flour tortillas like you
might see like in the states with refried beans a cream and cheese inside
when I got there when I got began buying buying the flour tortillas in in June
and July you could get five tortillas for 31
cents before I left you get five tortillas for 53 cents from 31 cents to
53 cents major increases in the lives in the in the needs and of the basics for
people in in Honduras so you begin to see how can people survive and even one
of the things that happened is the cost of transportation I used to go to a
neighboring village and it cost 30 30 30 Len pira’s which is about 15 a dollar 50
a few days a few days later a few weeks later in a Dristan – about a dollar 75
and see if you’re not making much money what does that mean you have a basic
problem in terms of book of a country where people get little for what they
work and for what they produce and the prices keep on rising but one of the
whole things about Honduras that I found most interesting for me in terms of
seeing why things aren’t working is they basically have a terrible infrastructure
I’ve gone to El Salvador for many years and visited even during the war years
but this lath aim of the last time I crossed the border in May of 2006 from
El Salvador Honduras immediately I had the impression that something was wrong
something was different and I all of a sudden I had to think of what is it it
was basically the lack of infrastructure El Salvador is poor but it is developing
but it has a gulping infrastructure where is Honduras
the infrastructure first all devastated by Mitch but also the geography
mountainous mountainous villages that are only connected by if there are
connections between them connected by dirt roads some of them which you can’t
even get to by dirt roads and you need to either a horse or to walk so you have
widely scattered widely widely disparate villages and what large distances
between the rural villages and the main towns I mean I the last week before I
came here I talked to a woman who had come into the town in the countryside
where I was was helping and she was coming for a parish meeting and she said
yes I walked three hours to get here and of course she had a walk back three
hours after the meeting because there’s not sufficient there’s not
transportation and if there were she would not have money and there that’s
really the one of the major problems the lack of infrastructure and just
basically some of the geography but the other thing is you have rural villages
without electricity which is not uncommon throughout the world but even
parts of the city of Santa Rosa the main city in the southwest even there there
are neighborhoods without electricity at this point there’s a neighborhood where
I go occasionally where what you find is a they they just got water two years ago
in the town so the four to six hundred people who live in that area had to have
water get their water from a tank that came in and put it in barrels and so you
use barreled water for a week or two for washing four for cooking and for eating
and for drinking so you have these major problems in terms of the lack of of of
infrastructure because of a lot of different reasons and I’ll come back to
why this why I think it’s that way in a sense therefore why people might
emigrate one of the things that most troubles me is is the problem of
education education in Honduras is only compulsory
up to the sixth grade and only about 31% go to the next level of schooling that’s
a figure that I read after I had talked to a sixth grade teacher who said of the
ten kids in her sixth grade only three or four would be going on to seventh
grade what what is equivalent of junior high they’re only three only three out
of ten are four out of ten that is in extense a typical figure and therefore
fewer in would be going on to high school and of course very very very few
would have the chance to go to college I always ask kids when I run into them you
know what are you doing are you in school and typically I find that the
answer is I’m not going to school and then what the question I ask is okay
here they’re about 13 14 15 well how many years of school do you have have
you gone through two three none so you have a basic question in terms of the
lack of access to education plus also the lack of motivation that’s given to
these young people for education there’s always a few who have gone to high
school and try it but most of those high school people are doing it through
distance learning or have to go to school on Fridays and on Saturdays and
Sundays because they live too far away from a height from high school but they
make the effort and do that so you see this but what is often difficult is that
the schools in rural villages may have only one or two rooms and one or two
teachers and but they often have and this is the whole things there’s the
problem of incompetent and irresponsible teachers early on I remember going into
community and one of the major complaints of the community is the
teachers come to there on Tuesday and leave on Thursday of course they get
paid for five days a week so what are the children getting what chance is
there of improving what chance of there is improving the lot of the the people
in in in in that country so you see some of the
difficulties but part of the whole thing is is why why are these many of it is
the people like the money to send kids beyond beyond grade school and and one
figure I saw is 20 percent of the people don’t have enough money their notebooks
pencils for their kids and many don’t even have enough money to buy clothing
and shoes so you have a basic situation of massive poverty and then you have the
very interesting cases where I consider both a sign of hope but also a desperate
is a kindergarten where I go to once a week when there’s classes in Santa Rosa
there is a very dedicated teacher who gives a lot of her time to the kids the
four and five year olds in the kindergarten but there are 45 to 50 kids
each day in the kindergarten it says one person said when I described that it’s
like trying to hurt a bunch of cats just think about that 45 active four and five
year olds so that is a difficulty so trying to deal with that the public
health system I really won’t even talk about that because nurses quit there
because they haven’t been paid for four or five or six months they’re supposed
to be paid by the government and they aren’t paid and so they quit but you
also have a question where many rural villages don’t have health clinics
nearby and don’t have even health workers there might be a nurse in the
major town but they don’t have the health workers the other other thing
that I think is really interesting is but why is this happening and I think
two things I think are really important one is the three things are important
one is there’s radical inequality more than half of the country’s workforce is
employed in art agriculture and the largest foot the largest 17 percent of
the farms cover three-quarters of the land well the smallest 55 percent farms
covered less than one tenth of the land it’s what people often tell me is there
are seven sometimes people say nine there are ten families that control all
the wealth of the country you know there’s this perception among the
Hondurans that there is a concentration of wealth
in very few hands and if you can see this this figure in terms of land you
see that I was going out to a rural village with the pastor of the parish
where I’m helping and he told me yes there’s lots of great coffee here but
they’re all owned by one family and the family doesn’t live in the area they own
it so one of the major problems there is the radical inequality in terms of in
terms of land tenure and in another figure in 1999 20% of the population
with the highest income received almost half of the total income of the country
so 20 well the 20th percent poorest received only 4.7 percent of the local
income now those are figures but they also translate into kids that don’t have
enough to eat people who run out of food people who need to have their food
supplemented by charity so that’s one of the problems in terms of the radical
inequality the other thing that’s really I think is is important to recognize is
this is not just a question of you know there are all sorts of reasons why that
is that way but it’s also a question of Honduras has a major problem of
corruption it’s probably one of the most corrupt nations in the hemisphere the
political parties there’s two of them that pretty much control everything and
they basically when they’re in power they basically put their people in power
in our country we have a notion of what civil service people who work for the
government but their job isn’t dependent upon their political party that is not
the case in most of Honduras you pretty much get a job if you if your party is
in power it’s not always the case but that’s very strongly especially in terms
of positions of importance and so when there’s a change of government from one
part to the other there’s a whole change of people in charge of many things and
so things are very very inefficient but also there’s a whole question of other
types of corruption people paying government officials to do things the
way they want but also the corruption um the politicians recently the the
Honduran Congress was about to pass a law to set aside millions of dollars to
give the political parties to finance their elections in a poor country
they’re setting aside millions of dollars to give to the political parties
so that they can finance their elections for the president now it sounds might
might say anti corruption so you’re not going to get the drug dealers to pay
money to them but still where’s that money going to come from there’s not
adequate funding for for the for education there’s not adequate funding
for health care where’s it going to come from what more is going to be cut and
after major protests including a scathing condemnation by the auxiliary
bishop of Tegucigalpa the capital they decreased it to only 2 million a year
then it’s only 2 million for the next couple of years sorry it’s not been a
year but it comes next couple of years what will be done the corruption the
that most of this lack of a sense of common good and the public interest are
a major problem that I see but one of the other things is Honduras is not a
poor country in terms of its resources it’s got it has beautiful pine forests
all those there’s massive deforestation but it also has a lot of Natural
Resources but one of the whole questions is what’s being what’s happening to
those resources in 1998 in just a little bit after Hurricane Mitch came through
the Parliament the government department the Parliament which is basically the
one house of Congress passed a law that basically said mining interests can
basically have concessions in 31 percent of the country third of the country
mining interests could come in and basically you know do what they wanted
the law was virtually written by the mining Association which was primarily
made up that time of US and Canadian companies and the law offered companies
lifelong concessions low taxes unlimited access to water in other words
they could take all the water they wanted that they needed for their job
for their for their area they could appropriate lands owned by the people
who were farming or by it by the indigenous people and there are a
few environmental restrictions and what happened is in 2000 the International
Monetary Fund it pressured Honduras to reduce taxes even further these mining
companies they have to pay a 1% tax to Ministry very Nissa pallette YZ 1% even
though some of the mines will produce more than 30 million dollars worth of
gold a year 1% you know again the corruption comes into that but the whole
question of these are resources of the Honduran people and what’s what are they
getting back one of the whole questions to is water there in certain parts of
the country the water the table has been lowered but even worse the situation is
in terms of what I would call environmental damage now talk of a
specific case about forty five miles from where I live there’s a gold mine
son undress gold mine it’s a gold mine that has been they’ve been taking gold
out of it since the Spaniards came in the sixteenth century but it was not
until about the 1980s and 1990s that they began to do major exploration there
and major work and some of the major work happened around 1995 when a company
came in and began a new way of mining their gold it’s called open pit mining
you don’t dig down into the earth and find it what you do is just scrape the
dirt you crush it and find the gold what does that do major effect upon me on the
environment in terms of of the destruction over the land and the like
major deforestation but that’s not all in order to extract the gold the process
use is called cyanide bleaching does anybody know anything about cyanide cyanide is pretty poisonous
and so the cyanide leaching with a process which you know I’m not a
scientist they pour this on the fear of the the dirt and index the the gold
comes to the surface or is can be easily extracted from there but then what do
you do well supposedly the cyanide will be will be dealt with but in 2002 this
mine released cyanide into the stream by the the mine and that stream is the
stream that provides water for the town of Santa Rosa dekopon with its twenty
five to forty thousand inhabitants it’s a major fish kill and you’re like one of
the things that’s happening in Honduras is that many people are opposing this
many people are saying we need a new mining law that will not only stop this
open pit mining that will protect the environment but will also see that more
money comes back to thunderin people so it doesn’t all go to Canadian firms this
this group is is run by a Canadian firm with with Honduran subsidiary so you
have all these difficulties in terms of what you see in terms of Honduras though
it has capabilities though it has people who work hard so it has great natural
resources you have a major difficulty there you have the lack of development
one of the things that I should mention is in the midst of this lack of
development one thing that probably hasn’t prevented Honduras from being
absolutely worse is the very fact is the Hondurans who live outside the country
mostly in the US send back money in 2001 about five hundred million dollars came
back 2001 a major source of revenue for the country but in 2006 according to the
US State Department they estimate that two point four billion dollars will be
sent from the u.s. to Honduras two point four billion it’s a major source of
revenue a foreign revenue for the country
so the presence of of immigrants in the u.s. is a is something that’s keeping
that country alive and many people in the countryside alive there are lot of
efforts though they’re being made and I wanted to hold to tell you in terms of
this their efforts being made in terms of what’s the critical issue and not
that’s that I think is that there will be some sort of of justice in the
country a little before I left I was visiting the church were where I’m
helping out and they had a poster there that came from the National migration
week in Honduras in 2004 and the poster read with social justice and peace
there’s no forced migration because they considered the economics of the
situation is forcing people to leave but what is needed is the development of
their country efforts are being made you have NGOs there Oxfam is their heifer
international which provides basically a no farm animals for people in the
countryside are there countries like Spain and Finland are providing
assistance there there’s poverty alleviation strategies that are being
done one man I know is working in a couple small communities with groups of
10 to 20 people families and finding a way to give them small loans to help
them to get out of poverty and working with them on that and they seem to be
ways that are helping you have groups that that work with people to provide
alternative ways of dealing with agriculture alternative ways of using
the land and developing the land and you have people like one of the persons I
met there and whose farm I visited twice Moises Moses and Moses has a incredible
piece of land which is probably less than an acre it’s on a hillside like
this he’s been there about less than ten years and he said when he got there it
was all rock and actually it’s still is rock but in the midst of that rock he
has managed to to buy buy all sorts of agricultural methods been able to plant
and raise at least 20 different crops everything from corn to to vegetables to
fruit trees erases chickens and and fish in that
same one area plus he has built on that on their their a a little place where
people can come in for workshops to learn how to use alternative ways to to
develop their land he’s an extraordinary person very extraordinary he’s had two
years of education but he has done amazing things and he is helping other
people and teaching other people to do it he’s one of the signs of hope of
doing things he’s not going to be leaving because he has a possibility he
has been trying to do it and he’s been able to do things and he’s trying to
help others to do that you have also other people there’s there’s a group in
the town I I’m in the Santa Rosa that works with helping rural farmers rural
coffee farmers and others develop their land and develop their relationships and
their economies and and develop so that they can do Fairtrade coffee to export
coffee to get a fair price for their coffee you have a lot of these different
areas that are doing types of different things I mean the amount of little
things that are being done our little ways to try in other words to help to
help the country to make a difference even though they’re small there’s
they’re small things like Caritas which is later sort of like a Catholic
Charities in the area has programs of teaching people how to process me it has
programs of small-scale bakeries teaching people how to bake mostly women
in this case there’s Caritas in another group are working with organic gardens
help teaching people how to grow organically using what they have there
and to use and to and to find ways of using natural medicines natural healing
with the crops that they have with what they have you have groups like Catholic
Charities and others this group Caritas and others working for providing
education for work for children for basically high school mostly high school
and junior high by these programs they called my a stroll in Casa the teacher
in the house so that they have work all during the week
and come with Friday Saturdays and Sundays to study who have these efforts
that are being done in the area where I’m where I’m working with with the
parish the pastor there is working in terms of giving the people ways of
growing gardens is also idea is that is to do a project of teaching people how
to make silos not the big ones we see here about ones that be about six feet
tall for why so that people would be able to
conserve their harvests because what happens now as many people don’t have a
place to store their their corn when they when the harvest comes so what do
they have to do they store enough for a while but they will sell it but
everybody’s selling and you know the rule of economics when you sell and
everybody’s selling the prices go down but then several months later what’s the
situation the situation you find is that they run out of corn and the tortilla is
the basic the basis of sustenance in the countryside and throughout the whole
country they buy it and of course the prices are raised so his idea is to help
people learn how to make them and and to make silos and help people buy those
silos and as they pay back to silos have a revolving fund for more people to be
able to have silos why for food sufficiency so they’ll be able to have
enough food to survive it’s an amazing project that I’m hoping with some folks
too to help him and others to work in in this project you also have people there
who work for things for example who work in opposition to mining and to these
electoral reforms that really don’t really change things so you have people
there working there’s also since been some depth debt
relief it was I think the first con Doris was the first country that got the
special you know designation for debt relief and a million dollars compartment
and a billion dollars was forgiven in the er-2
in March 2006 but still there is a major amount of that and they’re supposed to
be using the money that they save for the eradication of poverty
but one of the whole problems is corruption so some people have been
using the eradication of poverty money for what developing the town square and
having people work on it that are their cronies the people they know there’s
those are sort of some of the problems but also some of the possibilities but
my question is what’s to be done and I think the first question the first thing
that needs to think of is what I saw in that poster with social justice and
peace there’s no forced migration in 2003 the US and Mexican Bishops talked
about gave laid out five principles for to talk about migration I want to talk
about three of them which are really important the one thing they said is
first of all people have the right to find opportunities in their homeland
people say what can be done you know people are coming here why don’t they
fix the things up in their homeland and that’s true but that will need massive
efforts not just the countries there but of countries around the world to provide
sustainable programs for the people to develop in their own country and
therefore in that they also need work that provides a just and living wage and
they need to get just rent recompense for their crops they need to do that so
they can find opportunities in their homeland so they don’t feel forced to
emigrate secondly persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and
their families i my my ancestors left Ireland in about 1848 who came to the US
why economic refugees there is no immigration law at that time so they
managed to get here and stay people migrated to support themselves and their
families and when persons can’t find employment
or adequate employment in their company of origin to support themselves and
their families they they I believe have a right to find work elsewhere in order
to survive and nations should provide a way to accommodate this right it’s not
an easy question but let’s ask the tough questions
now the other things that the US and Mexican Bishops say that sovereign
nations have the right to control their borders but they also add that more
powerful economic nations which have the ability to protect and feed their
residents have a stronger obligation to accommodate migration flows the u.s. has
great capabilities and therefore has great responsibilities finding ways to
help those not just in their own country but there are others helping them to
develop so that they can help their own countries develop but also when they’re
here help our country and others develop and
lastly the four fifth one but I’m skipping one of them the human
dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected punitive
laws and harsh harsh treatment should be should not be part of the u.s. policy
laws that want to just take everything away from anybody do not provide
possibilities are I believe in morale and also they really don’t help our
country or any country so what I what I would say is immigration and the
question of survival are intimately connected when we deal with the
questions of survival and sustenance when we begin to deal those in their
sources in the countries like Honduras and we begin to do it by looking at US
policies which I haven’t talked about when we talk about the policies of the
countries there that’s a way to begin to deal with the whole question of
migration because we need to find ways to help justice happen about 15 20 years
ago there was a book written by co-written by a Honduran woman of El via
Alvarado and she said so you Americans who really want to help the poor have to
change your own government first you Americans who want to see an end to
hunger and poverty have to take a stand you have to fight just like we’re
fighting even harder you have to be ready to be jailed to be abused to be
repressed and you have to have the character the courage the morale and the
spirit to confront whatever comes your way the question of immigration is not
just a question of politics if question of immigration is not just a
questions borders the question of immigration is a question of people you
me lvf whom I mentioned the people who might met in SL in Honduras and some in
El Salvador the people who live and work in our community people live and work in
places like Des Moines Marshalltown Mason City in other places it’s a
question of recognizing their humanity and finding ways that we can get out of
the whole question of can it get out of this question of merely surviving we
need to find ways to really respond to their needs there and here and that
means questions of looking for justice it also means ways of looking for
solidarity looking for ways in which we ourselves can help them but in a way to
help them that recognize that they too are people not just with dignity and
capability when you see people who work hard in their land when you see people
who work hard and they don’t get response they don’t get recompense for
what they’ve done when you see that you know something’s wrong so it’s a
question is but you also know that they have the capability they have the
ability people like Moses have the capability to take from an acre of rocky
soil and make it fertile ground one question is how are we that means
Hondurans and others and people here going to help make of rocky ground
fertile soil fertile soil so that we all can survive then not just survive the
commune flourish that’s the challenge that I think comes from of Central
America and the rest of the world in terms the whole question of the
immigration and survival thank you and I’d be most happy to answer any
questions and like so questions questions comments yes by
which do they speak right the gardener until we have
the the Honduran most most of the people speak Spanish on the gnaw on the
northern coast border you’ll people sees people speaking English some speaking
English or a a variation of of English which is influenced by the Caribbean
there’s there’s basically Caribbean blacks who live there on the northern
coast and some of them have brought a a type of you might say dialect of English
yes yeah the picture in the brochure is the picture of the town that I talked in
of the place in a town where I spoke of where where the the teachers don’t but
teachers come on Tuesday and leave on Thursday that’s a town I went with with
a priest from the front the priest from the the Catholic University in his class
they were going up there to do a survey as part of their class and to find out
it’s a very poor community it’s a community that has no electricity
although if you look closely on the top of that house you will see that there is
actually a solar panel I presume they have family in the states that sent the
money and so that they would be one of the few places in town in the village
that would have electricity they have a solar panel and but what what it is is
the students had gone there to to see the community to visit and to the to
find out what the situation was in there the community was trying to get
organized in such a way and to examine to do a study of their community so that
they could make a proposal to the Japanese government which is very very
helpful in parts of Honduras for a project of lighting of electricity and
some other projects so that’s you know that was one of the poorest communities
in that part it’s a to get to there you they went on the dirt road for quite
some long time and it was if a it was we went up you know we walked up a hill and
down for about an hour 15 minutes to get to there you probably
could get up in a vehicle but it had to be four wheel drive no this is this is
not the school this is basically somebody’s house it’s a larger house
because there’s a larger family and my presumption is when you see a larger
house what you’re talking about is people who have relatives in the States
we’re sending back money some of them use it well these people
were using it well to make the house a little larger and to get some
electricity by using solar panels I mean there’s sort of like amazing just to see
solar panels in this very poor village but you know these were the one of the
few places where you can get electricity so other comes yes it seems like women also become very
arrogant to do something my integration really do what we need why that’s become
so important and how we can interact with our I would not I’m not sure exactly why
there is that some of it is it’s a very it’s it’s an issue that because of a lot
of different things has raised a lot of emotions there’s a lot of fear in this
country and so part of it is the fear of the other some of which was generated by
the attacks of September 11th that generated fear and one of the whole
questions is in dealing with fear who do we use as a scapegoat and one of the
whole questions is people coming in people who are different how do we deal
with them also the very faculties immigration has significantly increased
in the last couple of years people you know the number of people trying to come
into the states has increased that will be the way that I would see it in terms
of what needs to be done we need a policy that deals both with the justice
there but also in terms of helping the people who are here
find a way to be legalized they have as I said the temporary protection status
predictive status that the Hondurans have not also Salvadorans have is one
way that has been used in the past to basically temporarily legalize people or
in this country without papers and it’s a very interesting thing as very few
people have mentioned that as know that that’s happened and why that’s happened
for like El Salvadoran and especially for Honduras is is you
know what would be the massive effect of deporting thousands of Hondurans right
after a major hurricane that devastated the economy I mean it’s a great emphasis
of compassion it’s a great compassionate thing there also other other reasons why
Honduras is getting it but that’s that’s more in terms of geopolitics but one of
the things is is we need to look in terms of ways to basically deal
compassionately with with the what is it 12 to 13 million people you know that
are in this country without papers that’s I think a question that that I
would say needs to be looked at how do you deal with the compassionately to
deal with basically you know to deal with the whole question of yes the
need to look at borders but there’s also the whole question is well there’s
there’s 12 million people here and would be disastrous for them to leave this
country not just for the for their own countries I mean what would happen if
300,000 400,000 Hondurans had to go back to Honduras where the situation is awful
it would devastate the country and probably lead to a major revolution but
what is it what to do here well the people who are working what
would that do I mean that’s the whole question we haven’t begun to ask those
questions well but that’s a couple things that I’ve been thinking of yeah
is that sort of give you an idea you might want your hand up and then there’s
a couple things one is looking in terms of trade and aid policies that really
assist the people there that really help them in terms of getting fair prices for
what they produce there you know one of the whole questions was in the past
there was a major problem for example of rice being imported from from into
Honduras whereas Honduras has a zone where there’s major rice production but
with the help of I think it’s the British charity called Christian Aid
they managed to put pressure so that the as the Honduran government managed that
there was some way that they would not undercut the rice growers in in the
country and one of it was is only important after after you exhaust the
resources there in the country so those looking at a de trade policies are
really kind of important looking at aid policies that are sustainable that that
provide really hmm that provide sorry-sorry technical
assistance to the people there where they really need it and that’s the
things that you really need but I mean unreal technical assistance
one of the most interesting things I found out is hon door
has the second largest group of Peace Corps workers in the world they’re about
to 200 there are only more workers in the Ukraine the whole question is I mean
they’re there they’re doing some good things but they’re there only for two
years what’s being done in terms of doing
sustainable programs a lot of those are being done by nongovernmental
organizations or or international groups from the European Union or Spain or
Finland or Japan but still what’s being done in terms of that in terms of those
policies that’s a couple things that I would see is they’re kind of really kind
of important there is a maitre d’s excuse me maitre d for deforestation
happening and I don’t have the figures in my mind and exactly how much there is
being deforested a year but it’s a major amount and so that one one one figure
says that if it continues at this rate and I can’t remember the year but it’s
something like 2020 the whole country will be deforested so you have a major
that that’s a major problem in terms of that the near Dubuque it’s Travis they are
the second largest producer trees chance to well one more negative forestry and
produce well one of the difficulties of that is again the land distribution much
of the land that I see is being used for for cattle grazing and therefore it’s
cleared and therefore the people who want to have rains for their basic for
their corn and beans for their basic sustenance are using whatever land is
available often the worst land on the hills that leads to deforestation and so
you have a cycle of things that is related to land tenure it’s a really
kind of important issue there was a there was somebody back there Tim you
guys a question reminding that the Southwest is which is
one of the poorest and what should we say most remote areas when most remote
areas in the country and there may be projects in other places but I don’t see
an awful lot of those projects mostly I mean I see an awful lot of projects from
from from ice a number of projects from the Spanish Spaniards from the European
Union from the Finns and from the Japanese but
and I do see a couple things from world food we’re a world food program and like
and once or twice I’ve seen programs that are basically US government
supported but I haven’t seen a lot that’s just and that may be just my
perception I don’t know the exact extent of what programs there are or are not
it’s just that in the area where I’ve seen I don’t see a lot but of course
when I go out in the rural area I go in through areia where they very seldom see
anyone who is not Honduran or not know or not Central American and so in the
rare the rare is nun nun nun nun native in some of these areas which is which is
very quite quite interesting in terms of that so it’s rare to find some of that
so that’s what I see and that’s why I don’t know if that’s indicative of the
country or it’s just to the region or it’s just in my experience so that’s all
I can say yes US officials great duration yes the
captain the Catholic Church in the US has been very very strong in terms of
having a first I mean one of the first things is is you need to find ways so
that they don’t feel forced to come here that’s so therefore the first thing is
social justice in the countries themselves in Mexico in Honduras and
other places but also the whole question is is of taking a strong stand in terms
of of policies that are fair and just and treat the dignity of the human being
so those principles that I mentioned were from the bishops documents and so
and they have been in the forefront of some lobbying efforts and others
together with other religious groups in the US and other non religious groups in
the u.s. to have a fair a fair immigration policy that deals with
basically the the the rights and the needs of the migrants who are here as
well as dealing with the the legitimate needs of country countries but it’s
basically taking very strong stands for for the for immigrants and you see that
also in terms of of the bishops in Mexico and men all over all over Latin
America and the Honduran bishops themselves see the whole question is
being very very important and one of the first things is for their own country
development and the other thing is that that their fair treatment for for
reference for migrants all over or so other comments you’re saying you kind of discouraging
the idea well there are there are strong for
there are strong movements one of the movements is called the Civic Alliance
for democracy and the Civic Alliance for democracy has actually been working on a
lot of different things and it has this it had the the support of the bishop in
my area bishop luis alfonso santos in terms of that and even when they took
the highways in terms of trying to pressure the government he was out there
and and thousands of people including you know all people from all sorts of
life including a lot of priests and others were on the streets trying to
basically get the mining law changed so you have that you have still have other
groups that are working together in civic alliances that include there’s a
very interesting thing in response to the law that i was saying about
electoral reform that were given money to the lots of money of the parties the
people that came out were religious groups catholic and protestant as well
as union some union groups as well as other civic alliances that were coming
out calling for major changes so there are groups that are working actively and
the it depends upon different bishops are stronger than others the bishop i
work with he’s been very strong especially in the mining issue and the
poverty issue so much so that last year no a year before he received death
threats so you’re talking about somebody who is you know willing to put his life
on the line and so you do find him doing that and you find others that are also
very strong in terms of of doing things getting trying to country and you know
bring people to consciousness of the situation and help them grow both in
terms of justice pushing for justice but also in terms of of development programs
so you have that’s what it doing the the land tenure program is up is long is
long term but you have people who see that as one of the things but one of the
major things is you’ve got a country is extremely corrupt and how do you
that how do you change that and there’s people just are just pushing to do that
for changes there’s some you’re in the back there the question yes yes when one of the things I think is really
important is my experience is because of my contact with people from there but
one of the reasons I’m in Honduras is because I went with a group of students
I think a couple of them are here in in March of 2006 to New Orleans to help
with 2000-2006 yeah yes to help them to clean up from
Katrina and in what we were doing and all that my heart was open to the other
way so one of the whole things that’s really important is is direct contact
with people in need helping them being with them recognizing that you can do
little things I mean I know that there are groups here that have done major
things in terms of helping the kids in their local shelter making life a little
bit better for them one person at a time and also helping to rebuild there
there’s their playground I know people are doing that little things but again
it’s taking little steps is really important because it you know and taking
the little steps in your own backyard are really important in terms of that
because I think the whole question is is poverty is everywhere
it’s very blatant in places like Honduras the effects are very blatant in
places like New Orleans when we were there in 2006 but you you need to just
look around aimes there’s poverty names there’s
hunger names what can be done what can be done not just by giving money but by
giving a little bit of yourself I think I really got to it because of being
pushed in a sense to be connected with people to find them to see them to
experience people in all their and all their good things and bad things because
one of the whole things is when you encounter the poor they’re just like
everybody else there’s good and they’re bad but one of the whole things is they
make mistakes but we all make mistakes one of the biggest things is when we
make mistakes we’re able to survive but when they make mistakes
there’s no cushion one of the examples is you know what happens if someone is a
rock star and has a drug problem they can be what go into the treatment
what happens if a poor person has a drug problem the possibility of getting
treatment is less they don’t have the cushion and I think one of the whole
things is recognizing that we all make mistakes and you begin to see that when
you begin to connect with people because you also see that people can also do
amazing things and that you can do amazing things little things I mean I
you know I know there are people here who have done major things I also know
that people who have done little things that have created major changes in terms
of of different things but it also means being connected being connected like
groups in in in Ames called Amos that me that recently changed the the got got
the the hospital to change its policy on health care for the poor major changes
were made why because people pushed and pushed together and because they have
known people who are we need so that’s what I think is needed there’s little
things you can do you can always do little things I just happen to do them
in Honduras but I do them because people here help me to do it they’ve opened my
eyes to do it and they help me by by providing assistance financially and and
other things like that now there’s possibilities just find it
you can find your niche find where your heart is finding where the need is and
put in your sense because it doesn’t it you need little steps to do this and you
can all do it you know everybody in this room could do something it’s kind of
amazing and you probably you probably are I look around and I know people who
have made changes and for me that’s that’s the importance to see people have
made changes changes that we would never expect it just look learn from history
and then learn from your experience and do what you can
Thanks thank you all for coming tonight if you
have any more questions John I’ll be up here for a few more minutes

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