As of 2011 there were around 11 million undocumented immigrants in The United States. They come here for the American Dream, a better life, and a better opportunity.
Let me paint you a picture of why it is that some of these people come to The United States. Honduras – an independent country since 1821, lies in the center of Central America and is home to the world’s highest murder rate: 90.4 homicides per 100,000 people in 2012. The Spanish word “hondura” in English means “depth,” a fitting term that symbolizes the depth of the Honduran peoples’ despair, frustration, and yearning for a better life.
Political corruption. Drug cartels. Gangs. These are just a few of the daily burdens that Hondurans have to deal with on a daily basis. Factors that would make anyone desolate, sparking the need to find a better life.
Tegucigalpa is the capital of Honduras and is home to a congested 765,675 people (as of 2007). This city is “protected” by a corrupt police force, which in the span of two years killed 149 civilians. Due to this lackluster police force and in an attempt to rectify the criminal environment and cure the disintegrating infrastructure, in 2011 Honduras’ congress passed an emergency decree authorizing military personnel to carry out public security operations.
On June 28, 2009 Honduras was home to Central America’s first military coup since the Cold War. Honduras’ Supreme Court ousted then-President Manuel Zelaya after Zelaya attempted to conduct a non-binding poll, holding a referendum about organizing a constituent assembly in order to rewrite the country’s constitution in order for him to run for president again. Honduras’ constitution only allows for one, four-year, presidential term. Despite President Obama and The United Nations’ condemnation of Honduras’ coup for the manner in which the exile of Zelaya occurred, Honduras’ congress blocked legislation that would allow for Zelaya to return to his position.
Nestled in the middle of the Americas, Honduras serves as a route for drug trafficking from South to North America. Gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha and 18th street are so widespread in Honduras that these gangs control many of the public schools. In 2014 Liliana Ruiz, The Ministry of Education’s Director for Tegucigalpa, explained the fear of the gangs’ presence in Honduran schools as “indescribable…because these children are capable of anything… it is a climate of shocking desperation.” Teachers have to pay students that are in these gangs an extortion fee just so they can teach.
Political corruption. Drug cartels. Gangs. These are the reasons that people are fleeing from Central American countries like Honduras. They want a better life for their families and they want a fighting chance. There is not an easy solution to the problems that are overwhelming these countries, but an international discussion is necessary to see what can be done. The problems that these countries are facing spill over to surrounding countries, and the heavy burden that the citizens of countries like Honduras are faced with reach far beyond the borders of this beautiful, picturesque country.
Jose Figueroa is a 3L and a Resident Student Blogger with the Journal of Law and International Affairs at the Penn State University Dickinson School of Law.
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