08 Nov Honduran Caravan: Don’t Believe Everything You Hear
by Phil Waldron, CEO of Mission Upreach Inc.
As US citizens living in Honduras it frustrates us to see all of the news from either side that is so distorted in its simplistic approach to a very complex problem. Our frustration is exacerbated by the fact that we are investing your donations and our lives to create real solutions to the problems that are feeding the current illegal migration north.
Please take a few minutes to read the following thoughts on the caravan and some of the underlying issues. And please pray for the governments and peoples of Central America. As Christians we are urged to pray regularly for government leaders even when they are corrupt and non-Christian. One example, among many, that we find in Scripture is found in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, (KJV). “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
My first recommendation regarding how to view the current caravan of Hondurans treading its way North towards our southern border is; “Don’t believe everything that you hear!” My second recommendation is, “spend some time reading different opinions being expressed, not just the ones that agree with your current thinking on the topic.” I offer the following thoughts as someone who is fiercely loyal to Jesus as Lord, someone who is fiercely proud of being a citizen of the United States of America, (Which in my opinion is one of the greatest societies that has ever existed in spite of her many flaws),1 and one who has spent a good deal of his life living outside of the United States ministering to the poor and broken of Pakistan, Mexico, and Honduras. This last qualification, I believe, offers me an “insider-outsider” view on the US and its policies and in many ways helps me be more objective in situations like the current media circus surrounding the Caravan.
Fox News reported recently that Nexus Derechos Humanos (Human Rights) Attorneys Inc. filed a law suit in the US District Court in Washington, D.C. seeking to prevent President Trump’s administration from stopping the migrant caravan from entering the U.S. on the grounds that all migrants have the right to due process when asking for political asylum. The law suit further states that there is a “well documented human rights crisis” in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
This law suit hinges on two important pillars that assert; 1) a “well documented human rights crisis in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras exists” and 2) that the US is constitutionally obligated to admit these immigrants at least for due process leading to an investigation of the veracity of their claim for asylum. Many of the arguments being put forward by Christians also begin their assertion by stating, ipso facto, that these migrants are refugees. The proponents for taking in the thousands that are saying that they are going to “walk across the border” assert that they should be admitted because all or at least the majority of the people are refugees. They presume that these “refugees” are the same as what everyone understands from history to be a classic definition of the term. But we should ask, “How are these refugees anything like the Jews escaping Nazi Europe before the outbreak of WWII? Or the refugees of the Armenian Genocide under the Ottoman Turks? Or even the more recent Syrian refugees fleeing the brutal consequences of civil war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives?” To compare these migrants to those ethnic groups that suffer genocide or political extermination by their governments is a stretch of ludicrous proportions to say the least.
I have even read articles comparing the situation of these “caravan migrants” to the refugees that fled the Khmer Rouge regime and then further state that as the baby Jesus was a refugee to Egypt and as the Scriptures enjoin Israel to welcome the aliens living among them; that the US should also welcome these, “refugees” with open arms and open borders. It is too long of a discussion for me to respond to the inappropriateness of this comparison to the current situation but it is not at all the same. For more information, do some reading on the Khmer Rouge regime here and here. Further, the contention by some Christians that the injunction from Leviticus 19:34 means that our borders should be open to any and all who want to come in is just too reductionistic in its worldview. Of course, we as a civilized nation should treat all men and women, regardless of color or creed, with respect. Even the illegal aliens that are already living in the United States deserve the same respect and dignity that our citizens deserve as human beings. But neither of those two perspectives should preclude the US Government from vigorously shutting off the influx of illegal aliens attempting to enter our borders by force or stealth. Nor should it prevent our Government from active deportation of illegal aliens; especially those who commit crimes while living within our borders.
To further complicate this situation, the media is divided on creating an image of the type of people that make up this caravan. Some only report the danger of the criminals and gang-members while others only focus on stories about innocent families and children. These stories tug on the heart strings of anyone with a conscience because they show the desperation that is motivating these people to risk all in a gamble that they will be allowed in to the US once reaching the border. How can anyone with a conscience ignore the emotional and moral arguments that are being made about the plight of these people? Further, how can anyone, who is a patriot, dismiss the ideals that make our country great? One of the foundational values that made the United States great and seems to speak to the current situation is the famous inscription on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” If we as a society walk away from these and other foundational values that made the United States, the great country that she is; we will cease to be great.
I have only begun to touch on just a few of the many facets of this complex situation. And as I look at the emotional and political quagmire that surrounds the present Caravan phenomenon I am reminded of Dr. Edwin Friedman’s book, “A Failure of Nerve”. Friedman talks about the difference in empathy and sympathy and concludes that empathy is what is paralyzing our nation’s leadership. He goes further to say, “…It (empathy) has become a power tool in the hands of the weak to sabotage the strong. It serves as a rationalization for the inability of those in helping positions to develop self-control and not enable or interfere. The focus on empathy rather than responsibility lessens the potential for survival of both leaders and followers.” 6
What is called for at the moment is reasonable, responsible dialog among all of the stakeholders. Presently, each “camp” is championing its own agenda for its own political purposes. The News Media, in great part, is seeking to “line its own pockets” by having the most sensational headline or story of the day. And the average person reading the posts and hearing the news is being emotionally “whiplashed” between the myriad of bombastic arguments being floated about. Compassionate objectivity is required to navigate the shoals of this very real situation. We need to step back from the emotion and begin a dialog about realistic, long-term solutions to the issues producing the current “tidal wave” of illegal immigration.
In other words, what is required is more than simply executing a moral and compassionate response once the immigrants arrive at the border. What we need is compassionate intervention coupled with a sustained focus on prevention of the problems that produce the desperate gamble by so many to reach US soil. The obligation to intervene and create positive change is not exclusive only to the United States. This is a multi-faceted, complex situation that will require international cooperation among nations at all levels. It will require host countries being more accountable for confronting and cleaning up corruption, it will require diplomacy, economic development, and much, more.
The US alone cannot and should not be held responsible for receiving any and all peoples who flee their country for whatever reason. Neither should it fall exclusively on the shoulders of the United States to initiate transformation in other countries without partner nations shouldering an equal share of the work and the cost to do so. Even if we feel that we find the perfect solution, the United States cannot legally do anything unilaterally within the borders of another sovereign nation. Our history shows that when the US has done so, it often leads to worsening the situation rather than bettering it. A certain level of objectivity and reason should be used to encounter a long-term solution. And international collaboration must be a part of any real solution in order to achieve success.
If you would like to have some first hand, quantitative knowledge about the realities of illegal immigration from Honduras to the US, I would encourage you to read an article that highlights a Honduran Jesuit organization’s survey results. The report (written in 2018 using 2017 results) confirmed the economic crisis in Honduras as the main cause for immigration. Of the respondents that had a family member who had emigrated in the last four years, 82.9 percent did so due to lack of employment and opportunities to generate an income. Meanwhile, only 11.3 percent migrated due to violence and insecurity. In comparison, the 2015 ERIC-SJ survey showed that 77.6 percent migrated for economic reasons and 16.9 percent migrated due to violence.
If what the Honduran Jesuit organization says is true, it is not a “human rights crisis” that is propelling the caravan participants to seek asylum in the United States but rather an economic crisis. According to the Department of Homeland Security, in 2016 people from the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador made up 28% of all Asylum Grants. This is more than Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Nepal, and Ethiopia combined. The incentives for claiming refugee status are unfortunately being exploited by a large portion of the participants in this Caravan. Instead of crossing illegally, asylum seekers turn themselves in at the border and claim it is unsafe to return to their country. Some refugees are allowed to live in the US while their claim for protection case is pending and others are detained during a period of time. As of March 2018 there were more than 690,000 back-logged open cases and an average processing time of 718 days. Of course, not all cases are approved. However, the refugees who are approved can then apply for a green card free of charge. The fee for all other applicants is $1225. While some in the Caravan (at least 11.3%) have a legitimate “credible fear” of returning to their home country, many are abusing this “loophole” in the immigration system. I personally know of Hondurans in no danger whatsoever who have joined the caravan in order to “aprovechar” (take advantage) of this unique opportunity. The reason it is important to make this distinction is that “the solution” for one crisis is completely different than that of the other. The human rights crisis compels us as a nation towards compassionate consideration of asylum seekers. The other compels us towards efficient and efficacious economic development in the home country of the migrant coupled with international pressure for accountability in fighting corruption.
Mission UpReach is focused on “building capacity” in the home country. Robert Lupton, author of “Toxic Charity,” speaks about transformation of a society and says that in order to inspire real, positive transformation there have to be three elements working in balance. Lupton says that these three elements necessary to transform society, are: 1) rule of law, 2) access to education and 3) access to economic opportunity. In Honduras, where Mission UpReach is working the only thing that will effect change to the corrupt justice and political system (rule of law) is for a whole new generation of leaders to rise up from within to lead in a way that is “for the people and by the people.”
While outside international pressure on the current Honduran government to be more transparent and more firm in their fight against corruption would be an excellent intervention, it is only one component of the long-term solution. The solution, we believe, is for Hondurans who are real, genuine Christians, or even those who share the same values as Christians, to rise up to leadership positions and make their country a better place to live. Our DESEO public school values education program is focused on producing such leaders beginning with children in the first grade. And our Moses Project, a residential, working farm equipping young men to be Christian leaders in their home communities, is providing the training in agriculture business that will allow them to transform their economy.
You can make a real difference in this current crisis by:
- Praying for the US Government officials as well as the Mexican, Guatemalan, Honduran and El Salvadoran Government officials.
- Opening your heart and mind to sincere respectful dialog with those who have different viewpoints.
- Giving to an aid organization operating in Honduras to help create long term solutions in the home country of most of the current caravan participants.
Here at Mission UpReach, we work towards long term solutions that alleviate spiritual darkness, poverty, oppression and injustice. We do so on the foundational belief that Jesus is the solution for all that ails society. When Jesus returns at the second coming He will put everything right. Sin, sorrow, injustice, disease, death and decay will be done away with. Maranatha! (The Lord is Coming)
By giving to Mission UpReach’s year-end giving campaign you will be making it possible for oppressed and impoverished people to become “Fully Alive”. Please give today. We depend on these year-end donations to keep our doors open and to continue to work towards long term solutions to the desperation that exists in Honduras. Join us as Team Mission UpReach prays for a better future for Honduras and partner with us as we do our part in helping Hondurans create a better country for the generations to come.
Mission UpReach, Inc.
- I often talk about the USA by appropriating a quote from Winston Churchill changing it slightly to say, “The United States of America is the worst country in the world except for all of the others.” My contention, by no means, is that the USA is pure and blameless in its history but rather that the fact that millions are risking their lives to get to the US is evidence that what we have is a superior experiment in democracy and self-government than almost every other country in the world. How many people are risking life and limb to get into Cuba or Venezuela for instance? https://www.quotes.net/quote/49891