Violence in the territories of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador continues to be the main motivation of a person or a family nucleus to emigrate. Violence has diversified and institutionalized: gang violence, domestic violence, violence against women (femicides) and LGTBI communities, criminalization and murder of human rights and environmental defenders, the violence of drug traffickers in local communities. It is also well-acknowledged that this violence enjoys total institutional impunity.
Other causes of forced migration are unemployment, disasters caused by natural phenomena, abandonment and as well as state corruption, and the desire for family unification. Finally, what made this already dramatic situation worse was the 2020 pandemic; and in the case of Honduras and Guatemala, the two hurricanes of “Eta and Iota” in late 2020 devastated large sectors of the population. In the case of Honduras, “the two hurricanes left at least 94 dead and almost 4 million affected and, according to analysts, could cause an increase in the poverty level of 10%, exceeding 70% of the population.”
It is important to emphasize that the “deportation” of migrants generates violence to the dignity and psychosocial structure of the person throughout the process, from the moment of capture, in the detention centers where minors and adults are kept, to the treatment when expelled from the destination country, all the way back to their home countries, where they are received with much the same kind of treatment. For the deportees, whom the governments call “returnees,” it is an emotional and physical drain on their humanity. In addition, this drain oftentimes causes post-trauma, and exacerbated frustration and insecurity.
In figures, more than 23 thousand migrants returned to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras so far in 2021. According to IOM data, the country with the greatest reduction in deportations is El Salvador with a drop of 84.1%, ahead of Guatemala and Honduras, which recorded casualties of 51.9% and 27.5%, respectively… Each year, more than 500,000 people from these three countries try to emigrate illegally to the United States in search of better living conditions, including thousands of minors. “
The other alarming news, according to reports, is “the number of unaccompanied children and adolescents (hereinafter, UCAs) from the three countries of the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America (Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador) who try to reach the border of the United States irregularly has increased considerably in the last 3 years. Approximately 4 out of 5 children and adolescents detained at the US border were unaccompanied.” The week of June 24, 2021, unofficially, it was reported that 79 children and adolescents were deported to El Salvador. For a child to make the migrant journey to the United States, going through all the dangers in Mexican territory, is an abominable reality.
According to the IOM, from January to May 2021, 1,827 people were deported to El Salvador, of those 268 were boys and 147 girls. For each deportee, there are stories that encompass the range of emotions and memories of sadness, anger and insecurity. The “deportee” is a human being and compatriot who had the survival skills and motivation that led them to migrate. In the interviews carried out by the IOM, 63.0% expressed economic causes (deterioration in the quality of life), 14.7% expressed social insecurity and that their lives were in danger, and 21.3% were seeking family reunification.
For Christians inspired by the God of Life, let’s take a closer look at some biblical texts that tell us about the treatment of “foreigners” or migrants:
“The LORD protects foreigners, sustains the orphan and the widow” Ps 146 ; God “defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” Deut 10:18-19; “Cursed is he who perverts the rights of the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.” Deut 27; “Do not defraud the right of the migrant” Deut 24; “This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” Jeremiah 22:3
These texts serve as evidence that the people of Israel, in their experience as believers, had in their spirituality and ethical practice the care and defense of the most fragile of the population: the orphan, the widow and the migrant (foreigner). These vulnerable people are looked upon by God with care and tenderness, for being dispossessed and defenseless in foreign lands. Furthermore, in these biblical texts, God reminds each tribe of Israel that at one point they themselves were “foreigners.” All humans have migrated or come from an ancestor who migrated. That is why we are all migrants, strangers and pilgrims in this common home. And for franciscans, the migrant is a brother and sister, in equal dignity, who must be welcomed and cared for, protected and promoted, integrated and shared in life itself.
Br. René Flores, OFM
RFM – El Salvador
 Mauricio Gaborit, Mario Zetino Duarte, Carlos Iván Orellana, and Larissa Brioso Central American University “José Simeón Cañas”, 2015, El Salvador.