Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why No Nicaraguan Children?

Since last October, 52,000 unaccompanied children from Central America have entered the U.S. with no many have been detained by immigration that there is a real humanitarian crisis in detention centers.  But these children are all from Honduras, Guatemala and El Nicaraguan children.  

Why not? Perhaps looking at the reasons why Nicaraguan children are not immigrating would help the U.S. to shape an effective policy to keep Central American kids at home with their families instead of having to flee.  
In a recent article, the organization NicaNet stated: "The problem of the children migrants is blowback from US policy in the 1980s when our government trained and funded Salvadoran and Guatemalan military and police to prevent popular revolutions and more recently when the US supported the coup against President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras. Those countries were left with brutal, corrupt armies and police forces whereas Nicaragua, with its successful 1979 revolution, got rid of Somoza's brutal National Guard and formed a new army and a new police made up of upstanding citizens.

"Who consumes all those drugs that are causing all that violence and corruption in Latin America? Who has militarized the Drug War and is funding and training repressive militaries and police in the countries from which the children are fleeing? In both cases it is the United States."  

Take a moment to imagine making a decision to send your child by herself to a country where you have never been, knowing that she must travel more than one thousand miles with strangers, riding on top of trains, walking through desert, all in hope that if she gets there, she can find her way to a distant relative.  What situation would you have to be in to make that decision?  As a mother of two girls, I can only imagine one: where it is more dangerous for them to stay at home.  

Kids from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are being forced to emigrate to the U.S. by themselves because their countries are very dangerous.  Honduras, with 92 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, has the highest murder rate in the world. El Salvador has 69, Guatemala 39, Panama 14.9 and Costa Rica 10.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Nicaragua disproves the myth that poverty causes violence: it's the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, but has a homicide rate of just 8.7 per 100,000 inhabitants. 

Recently Nicaragua's Police spokesman was at a regional conference on community policing in San Salvador and in his talk credited Nicaragua's community policing model for making the it  one of the safest countries in Latin America, describing it as “a model of shared responsibility, that of person-family-community” which shapes all the areas of police work. In 2013, out of each 100 cases reported to the Nicaraguan police, they have been able to resolve 79. This compares to the almost complete impunity for crime, especially politically motivated crime, in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador -- in Honduras only 3 out of 100 crimes are even investigated.  

In addition to safety, many Central American kids simply don't see any future for themselves at home.  According to an article this week by Portillo and Torres, in Honduras, young women and children are most vulnerable from "an attack on the education system, a shockingly poor healthcare system, poor incentives, a violence created by drug cartels that the government cannot control, low wages in export processing zone industries, and a rate of inflation that leaves people not being able to afford quality food and goods, what future is there for a working class kid?

Meanwhile, the situation in Nicaragua is strikingly different.  Nicaragua's expected 2014 GDP growth rate will put it among the five fastest growing countries in Latin America, prospering even though its significant investments in poverty reduction, education and health care go against the austerity and structural readjustment programs prescribed by multilateral agencies like the IMF and World Bank:

  •  Nicaragua has achieved the goals set by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Zero Hunger Challenge ahead of schedule and lowered the extreme poverty level from 17.2% to 7.6%.  
  • Nicaragua ranks second in Latin America and the Caribbean after Venezuela as the country that most reduced the gap between rich and poor in recent years. 
  • Health care is improving all the time with immunization coverage at more than 95% and in 7 years maternal mortality rates have been reduced from 93 per 100,000 live births to 50 per 100,000 live births. 
  •  More kids are going to school and staying there: Nicaragua has a school retention rate of approximately 96% of the students enrolled and ALL students get a free meal at public preschools, elementary and high schools each day. 
  • Nicaragua is the country with the most gender equality in Latin America and the Caribbean and tenth worldwide, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). This means that in Nicaraguan women have greater access to health and education, and more  political participation and economic inclusion. 
Of course, Nicaragua still has a long way to go...but Nicaraguan children don't. They are safe staying right where they are at home, and if the U.S. government wants to keep unaccompanied children from crossing the border, then it should focus its Latin American policy on making sure that Honduran, Salvadoran and Guatemalan kids are safe, healthy, educated and have a future in their home countries. -- Becca