Positions on Current Issues
In response to President Obama’s speech regarding his Executive Action on Immigration, November 20, 2014, SHARE-El Salvador has issued the following statement to express our view:
Here at SHARE, we would like to acknowledge President Obama for addressing the broken immigration system in our country. However, we feel that this was a missed opportunity for the President to truly bring forth relief to the undocumented community in the U.S. We view this new immigration bill as yet another bandage over an infected wound caused by the United States’ failed foreign policy on Latin America. As a solidarity organization, we are discontented by the Obama Administration’s “action” towards immigration and feel that by not addressing the root causes of this broken system, no actual change will come.
The proposed action calls for an increase in tax dollars allocated towards securing the Mexican-US border and an increase in salaries for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, which is the primary department executing the 1,100 daily deportations. Further militarization of the border and in undocumented communities across the country does NOT decrease the number of people who are being pushed out of their countries by violence. The United States has historically supplied military aid to numerous Central American countries in the name of combating the War on Drugs.Thus far, such support has NOT provided any results; on the contrary, this aid has only armed foreign military with the necessary weapons to terrorize their own people.
As SHARE, we believe one of the primary steps to take in order to tackle the root causes of migration is for the US government to work WITH national and local community leaders in the countries experiencing emigration to move towards systematic solutions to improve living conditions in those countries. For example, our partners at CRIPDES, have many grassroots solutions to violence including youth leadership trainings and scholarships. However, those programs lack proper funding. The issue is not that there is no answer to ending drug and gang related violence. On the contrary, if the United States sent educational aid to El Salvador instead of weaponry and military training, El Salvador would not experience the current mass exodus of youth due to life-threatening violence. By investing in communities, we diminish the risk of people fleeing to our border from entities that now have their hands on US arms.
Another main initiative in this new executive order highlights the continued mass deportation and incarceration of “criminals” and other immigrants who have not met the necessary requirements in order to benefit from this relief action. It is estimated that merely 5 million out of the 11 million undocumented immigrants will receive the proposed benefits. Exporting our “problems” only leads to an even heavier flow of immigrants to our border. Mass deportation does NOT work. It is merely a temporary solution for the US government; it only appears to be real action in the short term. Over 70% of the Salvadoran children who attempted to migrate to the US this past year cited life-threatening gang violence as their primary push factor in seeking refuge in the United States. Such gang violence was in part a result of the mass deportations that have taken place since the 1990s.
Furthermore, this executive bill DOES NOT include the thousands of minors apprehended at the border and who now face immigration proceedings as adults. As SHARE, we believe that these children migrating from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala need to be acknowledged as refugees. It is our moral obligation to ensure their safety and basic human rights. For this, SHARE has relaunched our involvement with the Sanctuary Movement to mobilize churches and communities particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area but also nationwide to receive and protect children and families escaping violence in their home countries.
Last week, President Obama stated that he will see to it that “illegal immigrants” start paying taxes, which alludes to the fact that undocumented immigrants have not been paying into the US tax system and that a human being can be illegal. However, 480 million dollars in revenue annually comes from this population. His assertion is based on ignorance and is insulting. No human life is illegal.
President Obama questioned in his speech on Thursday, “Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us, or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs here, create businesses here, create industries right here in America?” This practice of attracting the “best and brightest” and keeping them as contributors to the American economy is known as brain drain. Brain drain occurs when a population’s highly skilled individuals seek opportunity outside of their home countries. This leaves nations without doctors, engineers, professors, etc. to provide the necessary services that promote development in those countries. Educating people here in the United States is not the problem. However, the idea that we cannot send them back “to compete against us” reduces people down to dollar sign pawns in the larger game of capitalism in which the US plays a leading role. Ironically, this paradigm only causes stagnation in global economic growth. United States-educated professionals must be encouraged to return to their countries to create infrastructure and a highly skilled population, resulting in greater human and economic development. Reversing this particular form of migration, in the long run will benefit the United States’ economy as well as the economies of the developing world.
At SHARE, we recognize that we must not overlook the nearly 5 million people that benefit from this action. For this we express our gratitude. However, to close, we would like to reiterate our discontent and critique of the Obama Administration for not addressing root causes and following the old discourse of viewing immigration as someone else’s problem. Because the United States has so much influence over the rest of the world, our failed policies directly affect the climate of each country in which those policies are carried out. If the United States truly wants to see an end to mass migration to its borders, action must be taken to address root causes.
Guns and military training do NOT work. It is time to stop singing the same song of mass deportation and increased border control. Those tactics have not worked in the past 50 years. They are not going to work today. We at SHARE implore the Obama Administration and Congress to act innovatively and challenge them to make history by changing the face of US immigration policy by addressing root causes.
To take action and stand with migrants and refugees, read the following petitions and sign them today:
For more information about what SHARE staff members are seeing and hearing in El Salvador today, check out the latest articles on the SHARE blog. We also invite you to read the extended Recent History and Current Issues Affecting El Salvador.