Boston City Council asks for government accountability in Honduras

Publisher: 
Boston Globe
Author: 
Akilah Johnson
Publication Date: 
May 2, 2018

Just days before the federal government decides whether or not it will strip legal protection for tens of thousands of Hondurans living in the United States, the Boston City Council passed a resolution Tuesday urging Congress to stop financially backing police and military operations in Honduras until the Central American country investigates human rights violations by law enforcement.

The determination by the Department of Homeland Security to terminate or extend temporary protected status for nearly 60,000 Hondurans who have lived and worked in the United States for decades is expected sometime this week.

Five countries have lost temporary protected status since President Trump took office, meaning about 250,000 immigrants have been told they must leave the country next year, seek an alternative immigration status, or face deportation.

And while immigration advocates expect Honduras to be the sixth country to lose the status, they are fighting for a different outcome by arguing that the deadly political violence that occurred after a 2017 presidential election has rendered the country incapable of receiving and reintegrating its citizens.
“It’s important to understand at the local level the reality of what is going on in [an immigrant’s] country of origin and the connection with US policy,” said Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente, an immigrant advocacy group based in East Boston that called for Tuesday’s resolution. “That’s a fact that people have been ignoring in the immigration debate.”

But it is something that the City Council talked about Tuesday during a brief discussion about the resolution, which was sponsored by Councilor Lydia Edwards.

“Unfortunately, many of them feel compelled to come here not out of choice, but in order to save their own lives and that of their children,” Edwards said.

TPS protects immigrants from certain countries affected by crisis or natural disaster from deportation, allowing them to live and work in the United States legally. But it is not a track to permanent residency or citizenship.

The humanitarian program has given refuge to about 57,000 Hondurans, including 1,460 in Massachusetts, since June 1998, when Hurricane Mitch killed thousands and destroyed roads, bridges, and farms.

The damage caused by the hurricane “set back the country for more than 50 years,” said a letter signed by 53 members of Congress, including Representatives James McGovern of Worcester, Seth Moulton of Salem, and Katherine Clark of Melrose, urging Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to renew Honduras’s TPS status for 18 months.

Damage from the storm has compounded “the residual effects” of disease, violence, and poverty despite “substantial efforts” by the United States and international community, the letter said.

“In fact,” the letter said, “conditions have substantially worsened in recent months.”

The November 2017 election in Honduras led to massive street protests, which were met by excessive and lethal force from the government, resulting in deaths of at least 16 people, according to the United Nations human rights office. About 15 people, including political candidates and activists, were killed in the run-up to the election, the report said.

The council resolution urges Congress to pass the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, introduced after an environmental and indigenous rights leader was killed by two men allegedly trained through a US military combat training program.

Akilah Johnson can be reached at akilah.johnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @akjohnson1922.

 

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