2020 Call To Action!
Join Author Sonia Nazario in a letter and email-writing campaign to political leaders. Sonia believes that the solutions employed in the past by U.S. political leaders—both on the left and the right—have simply failed to slow the flow of unlawful migrants and keep more children and families safe in their home countries. Instead, Sonia believes that the key to change is improving conditions in central America—El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala—where more than half of those arriving on our southern border come from. It also involves treating those fleeing harm—refugees, asylum seekers—in a humane way by offering them safety. The current administration has barred all asylum seekers, including children who arrive at our southern border alone, from entering the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a bogus pretext to bar people fleeing harm, since detention centers basically act as a de facto quarantine, screening out migrants who may have the virus. It is the administration’s way to use the virus to push anti-asylum policies, which violate our own laws and international commitments. In addition to using COVID to cut off asylum claims, the administration had previously implemented several noxious policies that must be reversed. Among them: the third country asylum rule requires migrants to apply for asylum in a country they pass through, despite these countries being among the most dangerous in the world. Also, the Remain in Mexico order forces immigrants to stay in Mexico until the date of their U.S. asylum hearings, forcing them to wait in unsafe border areas controlled by narcotics cartels, where they are often kidnapped, extorted and killed. We must protect immigrant children who are fleeing violence and ask for safety at our border because they are refugees. We must repeal the Third Country Asylum rule to ensure the immediate safety of migrant children. We must not make migrants wait for the adjudication of their asylum hearing at dangerous border cities in Mexico, where the high density of immigrants increases the spread of COVID. We must respect asylum as a fair legal process. We must not pressure Mexico to deport Central Americans before their claims to asylum have been heard. We must restore U.S. aid to Central America, and ensure that U.S. taxpayer money is spent appropriately by entities that are vetted, honest, and deploy evidence-based programs that are proven to reduce violence and corruption. If you agree, download a template that you can use to draft your own letter to your U.S. representatives.
Want to help immigrant children? If all of us do something, even something small, together it will make a difference. You can help in the U.S., organizations in Mexico, or people and groups in Central America. Here are some ideas:
- IN THE U.S. YOU CAN: 1. HELP A RECENTLY ARRIVED CHILD OR FAMILY IN YOUR COMMUNITY: Some people want to work one-on-one to help someone in their community. Most states and cities have local Latino groups you can find and volunteer to mentor a child, or help in other ways. Some people find this to be the most meaningful way to help. 2. WRITE OR CALL your congressional representatives and urge them to treat immigrant children arriving from Central America as the refugees most of them are, to resist inhumane proposals to separate mothers from children at the border or strip children of special protections they have long been entitled to, and to continue foreign aid to Central America designed to reduce violence. This aid helps support programs in Honduras that are making a difference like the Association for a More Just Society. The single most important thing for an immigrant child once they are in the U.S. is that they have a lawyer when they go to immigration court. That can mean the difference between winning the right to stay in the U.S. legally, which most are entitled to, or losing their case and being sent back in many cases to the danger they just fled. Ask your representative to do all of these things using this template letter I’ve put together for you to use.
- IN THE U.S. YOU CAN ALSO DONATE OR VOLUNTEER: to help Kids In Need of Defense, KIND, a nonprofit, whose board Sonia Nazario sits on, that provides free lawyers to immigrant children facing deportation. KIND has recruited 14,000 pro bono lawyers to help represent children in immigration court. It’s not enough. KIND really needs resources, attorneys, and translators to volunteer to represent children. (See below for ideas of other organizations).
- IN THE U.S. YOU CAN DONATE MONEY OR AIRLINE MILES: to Lawyers for Good Government’s Project Corazon Travel Fund, which sends pro-bono lawyers to the southern border to help migrant families, children, and individuals with legal representation. The travel fund was created in July 2018 with a mission to reunite families at the border, and has since expanded their mission to defend the rights of detained immigrants and assist those released from detention.
- IN THE U.S. YOU CAN PLEDGE TO BECOME A HOST: Volunteer to provide free housing to asylum seekers so that they don’t have to spend months or years in immigrant prisons while their claims are being heard. Recently, the LA Times wrote on how California residents are volunteering to take in asylum seekers as Trump and his administration are slashing the number of refugees. “Since June , nearly 800 people around the country have pledged to offer housing through California-based Freedom for Immigrants. The organization has raised more than $100,000 this year to bond 50 immigrants, including Aguilar, out of detention. Immigrants eligible for release from detention must provide the address of a sponsor to immigration authorities. Other organizations, including those associated with the sanctuary church movement, are also opening their doors to detained migrants in need of transitional housing.” Click here: https://www.freedomforimmigrants.org/join-us-1/ to support an asylum seeker.
- IN MEXICO, YOU CAN HELP ORGANIZATIONS THAT PROVIDE SHELTER TO MIGRANT CHILDREN AS THEY TRAVEL NORTH. [Suggestions below]
- IN CENTRAL AMERICA, YOU CAN HELP INDIVIDUALS SONIA NAZARIO HAS MET OR ORGANIZATIONS THAT SONIA KNOWS ARE WORKING TO REDUCE VIOLENCE AND POVERTY IN THESE SENDING COUNTRIES, SO CHILDREN DON’T FEEL FORCED TO MIGRATE.
IN HONDURAS, Sonia Nazario saw several organizations that are doing great work to help improve conditions for these children:
Asociación Para Una Sociedad Mas Justa [Association For a More Just Society]
In Honduras, the Association works on several fronts to reduce government corruption and violence. They have tackled corrupt government hiring practices, reduced teacher strikes that crippled schools, made more transparent the purchase of medicines by government hospitals and institutions. Perhaps most important, in a country where 96% of all murders are never investigated or lead to a conviction, they have hired teams to go into pilot neighborhoods and investigate all homicides, dramatically increasing the odds that people who commit murders are brought to justice. You can read about their work here and you can donate here.
Evangelical Pastor Daniel Pacheco: In 2015, Sonia Nazario went to Rivera Hernández, the most violent neighborhood in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, a city which for four years running was called the “murder capital of the world.” Pastor Pacheco often puts his life on the line to try and stop homicides and reduce violence. He also provides programs for youth to try to dry up the lifeblood of gangs: new recruits. Sonia Nazario wrote about Pastor Pacheco in this piece for the New York Times, and has tried to help him in two ways. First, she set up a GoFundMe campaign aimed a helping raise funds to open an outreach center for children in the neighborhood. He is in need of laptops, soccer balls, soccer uniforms, and money to fund his youth and anti-gang programs. If you want to reach the Pastor directly and can do so in spanish, the only language he speaks, you can do so at email@example.com. English speakers can also connect to the pastor by emailing Sonia.
Casa Alianza – Honduras
Casa Alianza is a shelter for children who have been deported back to Honduras and need assistance. There are multiple ways to donate.
Compartir is a nonprofit that provides educational and enrichment opportunities otherwise not available to underprivileged children in Honduras. They work in four communities, including Nueva Suyapa where Enrique is from, and provide kindergarten education, tutoring, and shoes and other supplies so kids can keep studying. You can donate here.
World Vision International (Honduras)
World Vision Honduras is a Christian organization that allows people to sponsor individual children, or to donate funds so that they can help provide clean water and other necessities to needy children and their families. They are the largest nonprofit in Honduras and help tens of thousands of children.
You can donate funds or volunteer at TWO ORGANIZATIONS FEATURED IN ENRIQUE’S JOURNEY:
Shelter in Southern Mexico run by Olga Sanchez Martinez that helps immigrants hurt by the train, the Albergue Jesús el Buen Pastor del pobre y el Migrante.
Olga Sánchez Martínez runs a new refugee center in southern Mexico to help Central American women and children fleeing violence in their home countries. For nearly two decades she has also operated another shelter for migrants harmed by Mexico’s freight train, La Bestia, ministering to those left without arms or legs.
Olga came to this work through her own suffering. When she was 7, she had an intestinal disease that went untreated for lack of medicine. Off and on after that, she was gravely ill. At 18, she went temporarily blind and mute. For thirty eight days, she lay in a coma—66 pounds of skin and bones. A year later, well enough to work, a machine tore two fingertips off at a tortilla factory. She tried to slit her wrists. In 1990, a doctor told Olga, who had two small children, that she had cancer—months left to live. Olga was not very religious back then, but she went to church and got on both knees. She made a pact with God: heal me and I’ll help others.
The Bible had taught her to help the weak and hungry. Visiting a local public hospital in Chiapas, Mexico, Olga saw a 13 year old Salvadoran boy with no legs, torn off as he tried to board a freight train north. She took him into her humble home—and then dozens of others. In 1999, she opened a migrant shelter. She has treated thousands since. Two months ago, she opened a shelter for refugee women and children.
“Everything can be cured. Nothing is impossible,” Olga tells migrants. She buys blood and medicine for migrants so they won’t die. She gets them prosthesis and drives them back to their home countries. She helps them apply for asylum.
She is asking people in the US to donate used instruments that are still in good working order, or money, so she can give these children music therapy. If you have a musical instrument donation, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s a video recently recorded of Olga at Sonia’s home discussing why she wants to start an orchestra of children who are traumatized refugees and use music as therapy.
To make monetary donations to Olga:
Send money directly via paypal (to be used for prosthesis, medicine, blood units, surgeries and reconstructive surgical materials): by using the shelter’s email on paypal: email@example.com
You can also contact Aracy Matus Sanchez, Olga’s daughter, with questions but be advised that she only speaks Spanish.
Finally, you can send donations through your bank to:
Albergue Jesus El Buen Pastor del Pobre y el Migrante A.C.
BANAMEX, Sucursal/Branch 4196
Donations from abroad please add the following: Iban/Swift 002133419600935248
Address and phone number:
Albergue Jesús el Buen Pastor del pobre y el Migrante
Attn: Olga Sanchez Martinez
Entronque a Raymundo Enriquez
Phone: 011-52-962-153-2995 or 011-52-962-621-1771
Church in Northern Mexico that runs an immigrant shelter:
Parroquia de San Jose
Attn: Father Leonardo Lopez Guajardo
Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas
Codigo Postal 88000
Father Leo founded this shelter for migrants. You can offer to volunteer your time, or send monetary or other donations by contacting the shelter at this email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Las Mujeres de La Patronas/The Women of La Patronas
From a small town in Veracruz, Mexico, the women of this pueblo go above and beyond their means in order to help feed migrants that cling to the tops of boxcars. Read about these wonderful women at Citizen Orange. Here’s a 2016 video of Las Patronas in action.
Or email them at email@example.com to find out other ways in which you can help.
Students Helping Honduras
Students Helping Honduras [SHH] is a volunteer organization that fights to reduce extreme poverty and violence by having U.S. students build schools in Honduran villages. Drawing volunteers from U.S. highschools and colleges, SHH teaches life-long lessons by having students do goodwill work. Students fundraise throughout the year and then put the money raised to work by building a school during their Spring break or during a week in the summer in Honduras. Before embarking on their week-long service trips, students learn about Honduras and the specific challenges the country faces.
SHH has a proven safety records for housing their volunteers. All-inclusive trips start at $650 + airfare and you commit to 8 days minimum and work in groups of 15-20 volunteers. Through fundraising or by recruiting friends to come along you can lower your participation fee significantly. What sets SHH apart from many aid organizations is its founding premise on local leadership. This premise not only ensures that those who know the place best decide what needs to be done but it foments commitment to long term success. Emphasis is placed on education as a key to upwards mobility. To get more information and find a campus chapter, click the link: http://shhkids.org/
Other Ways to Help
Consume “fair trade” products, such as coffee and clothing, where the people who produce these goods in Latin America are guaranteed a living wage.
Honduras Threads helps women in Honduras sew beautiful embroidered pillow cases. The cases are sold on their website. Also, M’Lou Bancroft, who started the organization in Dallas and heads it for free, can help you set up a party to sell the cases, which are works of art. M’Lou started this effort after a 2002 church mission to Honduras, and she now helps employ 80 women in Tegucigalpa.
M’Lou believes the solution to the migration issue is to help provide women in Honduras with work that allows them to feed and clothe their children so they don’t feel forced to leave for the United States. Sonia Nazario serves on Honduras Threads’ advisory board.
- Fair Trade Federation screens organizations according to rigorous fair trade guidelines.
- Dean’s Beans gives $3 of every pound you pay for their Honduran coffee to EcoLogic, non-profit that helps ensure clean water for communities in rural Honduras.
- SERRV has an online catalog of fair trade clothing and gifts
- Fair Indigo sells fair trade clothing and gifts
Readers have sent me many suggestions of groups that work to create jobs in Central America and Mexico so mothers can stay in their home countries–with their children.
- The Adelante Project in Honduras
- The Global Fund for Women
- Kiva, where you fund microcredit loans directly to an individual.
- Trickle Up
- Accion International
- Women’s World Banking
- Hispanics in Philanthropy
- Xela Aid
- Women’s Empowerment International
- Heifer International
- Global Partnerships
- Cafe Feminino Project and Foundation
- Pachamama Cooperative, fair trade coffee
- Students Helping Honduras where you can volunteer to build schools and homes for people in Honduras.
Other individuals and organizations have posted suggestions for how to help: