Exodus: From Northern Honduras to the Promised Land
by Hernan Angulo 12.11.18
Caravans are nothing new. Although, what makes the caravan that we have been currently hearing about in the news and other means of media is something quite extraordinary. It is because of the mass number of people that make up the caravan. It has brought attention across the world and has altered the conversation of the importance of migrants’ human rights. The caravan started in northern Honduras and since April, the United Nations had estimated that more than 7,000 Central Americans have taken part in the pilgrimage from Honduras to what they hope to reach, the U.S.-Mexican Border (Epatko and Barajas, 2018). Some of these migrants are seeking asylum in the United States, for reasons of escaping violence and poverty. Others are hoping to work in the United States and send money to family back home. The current administration’s reaction to the caravan is no surprise due to its no-tolerance policy and its Islamic-phobic immigration ban. These initiatives and rhetoric from the Trump administration has made the people who make America, America hide in the shadows and made the vilest of people come out with a disgusting sense of pride. Recently, Trump stated that he would send troops to the border to meet the caravan and that migrants would face a force not to be reckoned with. He went as far as to say, that if the migrants threw rocks, the troops had every right to shoot at them because fire-arms and rocks are the same. Is this the country that champions itself for having opened arms to huddled masses? The simple answer is: It was—or so we think. The caravan is escaping their apocalypse and they are hoping to reach the U.S. (the Promised Land, paradise, heaven). They are seeking asylum and hoping that the gates of heaven (the border) will open when they arrive. While here at ‘paradise’—although some may refer it to hell—we are facing a dilemma where Trump is bringing back an old order. We the angels of ‘paradise’ must fight for and create a new order, an order that makes America open its arms to the tired, the poor, the hungry, and the huddled masses in the world. By creating the new order, then we truly restore the idea of America and what it stands for, for so many people here at home and across the world.
As mentioned above, the caravan is escaping from their apocalypse. Violence in Central America has grown to an alarming rate and is the main factor of Central American migration to the United States. It is reported that homicide, kidnappings, and extortions happen daily in countries like Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, respectively. Waiting for a visa is not an option for these people affected by this violence. For many of the migrants, staying in their country is a risk of being killed, raped, and possibly recruited into violent groups and gangs. That is why the caravan consists of a huge number of young men, women, and children (Bermeo, 2018). One may ask themselves: How did violence in Central America come about? What is the driving force that fuels violence in Central America? White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has stated in 2014 as leader of U.S. Southern Command that, “cartels and gangs, fueled by the U.S. demand for drugs, ‘have left near-broken societies in their wake’” in 2017 he said, “The reason for the drug flow is due to our drug demand and we do almost nothing about it” former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said, “U.S. demand for drugs drives violence and lawlessness in Northern Triangle countries [Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador]” (Bermeo, 2018). This is the answer to the questions of how violence in Central America came about and what is currently driving it to an alarming rate. The driving violence that is occurring in Central America points back to us. How can we blame a people for escaping their apocalypse when in a way, we have been a factor to the creation of their hell. The least we can do is grant them asylum and welcome them to a country where they can contribute to its communities, right? Because that is what America is all about, right? Not to the president who is seen as a god by his base. Only if they are from Sweden or Norway do they have a place in paradise or what we know as America. Because to Trump, paradise is not made up of brown people, only people who have blue eyes and long golden hair.
Undocumented Central Americans already living in the U.S. and Central Americans crossing the border are obviously threatened to be deported. Their deportation will be the return to their apocalypse that they are escaping from. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have stated that the deportation of Central Americans is a death sentence and there are cases where Central American deportees have been murdered. In Sarah Bermeo’s article, “Violence drives immigration from Central America” she argues that “A kinder reception would be more effective”. She sates that by implementing tougher border policies, migrants would look towards traffickers to get them in the U.S. and pay a high price, thus strengthening organized crime. Bermeo also states that Central American migrants are “Far from being an economic drain…” and they actually “…contribute to the economy, driven to succeed”. A noteworthy point in her article is that many policymakers argue granting asylum to the caravan would be a security threat, but if we look back in history, during World War II we decided that the refusal of granting asylum is cruel. We must understand the seriousness of what is happening in the U.S Southern border and what would happen to thousands of people if they are not granted entrance to the United States. Bermeo reminds us that the arguments made for not granting asylum to the caravan by policymakers shows little of how much of history they have learned and their lack of moral leadership. Although, lack of moral leadership does not only imply to the people who just argue against granting asylum, but it also implies to the people who supposedly supports the caravan, but yet takes no action whatsoever.
In Everardo Víctor Jimenez’s article, “La Violencia En El Triángulo Norte de Centroamérica: Una Realidad Que Genera Desplazamiento”—translated to: “The Violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America: The Reality that Generates Displacement”—tells us the depressing statistics of violence that occurs in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, respectively. In Honduras alone, 15 to 44 year olds make up 80% of victims of violence; 91% of them are male and nineteen people are killed each day. This, as Jimenez writes in his article, is alarming and considered as an epidemic. The people that are most affected are 10 to 25 year olds. Let that sink in for a second. As young as 10 year olds are affected by this violence—they have been displaced or either killed. Jimenez states and explains some of the factors of violence: drug violence, masculinity, alcoholism, and corruption—although the biggest factor of them all, is the first. These are the factors that have created life in the Northern Triangle countries a living hell. This is the apocalypse that was mentioned above. Escaping violence and leaving what they had in their countries behind is the only option they have. How can the president and his followers not understand the stake that these people are facing? Turning their back on them is simply destroying the values that America holds dear. This reaction of the president and his followers simply show their lack of humanity. According to the New York Times article, “Trump Threatens to Punish Honduras Over Immigrant Caravan” by Kirk Semple, the president went as far as to threaten Honduras of cutting aid if its government did not take action to stop the caravan immediately. This ultimatum from the president is horrible: Threatening to cut aid to a country when it desperately needs it.
Sadly enough, the caravan have already faced racism in Mexico. For many Chicanos and Mexican-Americans, it is an embarrassing and shameful reality to accept that Mexicans would show aggression to Central American migrants. As a Chicano, it is truly disheartening. We are Latinx. Latinx is a term that unites us all. We are in the struggle together and must be in solidarity with one another and support each other. One would think that all Mexicans would show support, but it goes to show that nationalism is present in all types of societies. But then, we have to understand that Mexicans are obviously not the minority in Mexico. In the country, minority and/or marginalized groups include: indigenous people, the LGBTQ+ community, and Central American people. It proves that where ever there are marginalized or minority groups, nationalism, racism, and homophobia will always be present in society. Although, we cannot overlook the solidarity that the rest of Mexicans have showed to the caravan. Some have provided hot meals, sandwiches, water, clothes, and blankets. This is the solidarity and support that every Mexican needs to provide for their fellow Latinxs. It has been reported that the Mexican government has deported some Central American migrants and that some of them have decided to stay in Mexico and start a new life there. It is my personal opinion, that the sort of aggression that Mexican nationals have toward Central American migrants is a betrayal. The argument of white nationalists in America, not being truly American can be applied to the Mexican nationalists—they are not truly Mexican. It is saddening to know that receiving aggression is typical for Central American migrants going through Mexico. It shows the exodus they are experiencing, is not only filled with tiredness, hunger, doubt, but also fear when going through the unknown that is Mexico and the unpredictable interactions between them and the Mexican people.
Now that we have an understanding of what is at stake for the caravan, we have to ask ourselves: What is at stake for us and America as a whole by not granting them asylum? By America not granting asylum, then the country does not stand by the ‘values’ it champions itself with and supposedly cherishes. We then fail to be a nation of supposedly having open arms to huddled masses and protect those who are in need of it. We then realize that the America that our immigrant families and friends know is lost. President Trump’s initiative on tougher border policies and no tolerance policy only satisfies his base and racists. Why? Because his immigration policy and initiatives are racist! President Trump is only restoring an old order that white America romanticizes about. That is why Trump’s campaign slogan resonated so much with white Americans. He is implementing an old order that ensues hate and is destroying the immigrants’ America. What would America be if we didn’t grant asylum to people escaping Nazi Germany during World War II? When the country has failed in its role as an immigrant country, we tend to look at where and why it failed. We feel regret and wish that we can somehow turn back the hands of time and fix where we as a country have faltered. We cannot allow the same regret towards the country’s current approach to the caravan. We have to stand up for the people coming from Central America to the United States. As citizens of an immigrant nation, we must fight for their entrance to this country and protect them from their apocalypse that they are escaping from. It is morally wrong to turn our backs on them when they are vulnerable and need support. We have to be empathetic, not apathetic! We have to realize where would we and our families be if the country closed the gates to the Promised Land when we were seeking entry, asylum, and longing for opportunities! Due to the current administration it has succeeded in some areas to go backwards, but we cannot allow this backwardness of America to become a solidified reality. We have to resist!
So what is at stake for immigrants already here in the U.S.? Well, it means that the America they knew is gone and destroyed. The very fabric of a nation of immigrants is torn. The America that Italians, Irish, Jewish, Catholic, Japanese, Mexican immigrants came to, no longer exists. The problem is that to many of us, that reality frankly is not concerning, although maybe I am wrong—but it does feel that way. It shows the rest of the world that America, is not America anymore. Weirdly is trying to go back to a time when America is great—when that specific time was is still vague. Was at a time when white nationalists terrorized minority groups, when African Americans did not have voting rights, when Japanese-Americans were in internment camps? When, Mr. President? When, white-straight America? When? Let us not kid ourselves, the country has never been perfect. Minorities and immigrants were never fully welcomed when they first arrived. But the most important thing is, that the country has progressively evolved. Today, minorities have the right to vote, same-sex marriage is legal and recognized in all 50 states, interracial marriage is no longer seen as taboo and legal. The country has progressed over time—slowly, but surely. The problem is that today, the current president is trying to go backwards rather than forward. By building a wall and refusing to grant asylum to the caravan, he is halting the progressive evolvement of the nation. It is understood that to many conservatives and far-right fanatics that is exactly what they want the president to do. Although, we have to understand that the progressive evolvement has made America a better country and has been more inclusive and welcoming to the world. Going backwards is very threatening to the America that immigrants know and love. The progressive evolvement is what supposedly our founding fathers envisioned. They knew that the country was not perfect, but all they can wish is for America becoming a more perfect union. Whether the founding fathers knew it or not, they allowed room to have the country to progress and evolve towards a better America and an American for all.
Theater is community work. It helps us keep in touch with our humanity and sustain it. So many playwrights have written plays that have impacted the ways we think and view the world and our societies. We must thank the playwrights for having written their cry out to us: to fight, to stand up, and organize. For example the play, Marisol written by Jose Rivera calls for revolutionary action against power that is preventing a society to be progressive and ever-evolving. In the play, the character Marisol is facing the apocalypse. Her angel visits her and explains that they are at war against God, because he is growing old and wants to preserve his old order. This is a call from Jose Rivera to America! He wants us to fight back against the power that is destroying a progressive evolvement. The play is brilliant and it revolves around Marisol and her struggle to comprehend and accept the apocalypse that is occurring in New York. The play has little description of what exactly is happening in heaven during the apocalypse on earth. Although I believe that Jose Rivera brings to attention the catastrophes that we as a nation and the world face today. He uses the revolting angels in his play as a message to us to stand up to authority that is preventing our nation to positively evolve. The angels in Marisol can be interpreted as us; and God as President Donald Trump trying to preserve an old order and preventing a progressive evolvement of the country by initiating tough immigration policies. Paradise can be interpreted as America because so many immigrants view America as paradise, or at least a better place compared to where they are from. We (the citizens) are the angels in paradise and must create a new order while Trump and his supporters are trying to restore an old order that endangers not only the caravan, but also the people already here who make this country diverse and constantly create cultural production.
The revolution or fight that Jose Rivera calls out for, has already started. This ignition of a revolution can be interpreted in the results of the midterm elections that happened is a clear sign of resistance towards the president, and it is a sign to the rest of the world that there are people who are fighting for a better America. The new order is starting in America—slowly, but surely. Out of the forty women who were elected to congress, thirty eight of them are Democrat. American Muslims now have a voice in congress. Native American women now have a voice in congress. Although, the representation of women in congress is still ridiculously small, we cannot help but celebrate the historic record of women elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. This is the start of the new order. This can be seen as resistance towards the backwardness that Trump’s American is trying to go to and the romanticized old order that he is trying to restore. This is only the start, and hopefully it is what ignites the rest of the resistance in the upcoming 2020 election. I believe it is fair to say that this act of resistance is the cry that Jose Rivera calls out for in Marisol. As angels of paradise and the Promised Land we have to persist in pushing back and counter-punching the efforts to have an America with closed borders to brown people by the Trump administration. The 2018 midterm election is a good start, hopefully we can continue that type of resistance to implement a new order in America. This country is surely progressing, and we must keep hope that it is and forever will be.in the beginning of November. Democrats took back control of the House of Representatives, allowing them to have a check on the executive branch. Democratic candidates were able to flip a lot of congressional districts that were in Republican control. This is only the start of the revolution for a progressive evolvement of the country and a possible counter-punch to the tough border policies that the president has tried to implement during his term in office. The midterm election results
By granting asylum to all the people in the caravan headed towards the United States, we allow them to create a new beginning for themselves while we create a new order in ‘paradise’ at a time when Trump and the far-right is trying to restore an old order. We now know the possibility of what may happen to the people migrating from Central America to the U.S. if they are deported or if our country turns its back on them. We know what is at stake for the country. The difficult part is making American citizens realize that this crisis affects them too, not only the caravan. I believe that an American fighting for the caravan and wanting to grant them asylum is the definition of patriotism. Why? Because that is what America is about. It is fighting for America’s values as a country of immigrants. Fighting for migrants—I believe—is the one of the most patriotic things any American can do. It is safe to believe that nothing will stop the caravan from seeking asylum. And that is a remarkable thing to realize. It only proves how important it is to them to seek protection in a country where it also guarantees opportunities. If the country turns its back on the Central American migrants, then it would only be the immediate destruction of what America is all about, what we know of, and what many generations came to know. It no longer stands as the country of immigrants and would become a hypocritical country that bans immigration based on religion and nationality while its most reverend monument stands in the New York Harbor serving as the country’s symbolism of liberty. These people are running away from violence. To say that they would bring violence in the country is just an excuse and it is simply masking racism with ‘security concerns’. This is not an immigration issue, it is a human crisis. We are the angels of the caravan’s paradise, and it is our duty to open the gates so they can begin a new chapter in their life and so that their exodus will not be in vain.
Bermeo, Sarah. “Violence drives immigration from Central America.” Brookings. The Brookings Institution. June 26, 2018. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2018/06/26/violence-drives-immigration-from-central-america/
Epatko, Larisa and Joshua Barajas. “What we know about the latest migrant caravan traveling through Mexico.” PBS. NewsHour Productions LLC. Oct. 22, 2018. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/what-we-know-about-the-latest-migrant-caravan-traveling-through-mexico
Jiménez, Everardo Víctor. “La Violencia En El Triángulo Norte de Centroamérica: Una Realidad Que Genera Desplazamiento.” Papel Político, vol. 21, no. 1, Jan. 2016, pp. 167–196. EBSCOhost, doi:10.11144/Javeriana.papo21-1.vtnc.
Semple, Kirk. “Trump Threatens to Punish Honduras Over Immigrant Caravan.” New York Times. Oct. 16, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/world/americas/trump-immigrant-caravan.html?action=click&module=RelatedCoverage&pgtype=Article®ion=Footer.