October 12, 2018 at 10:30 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Central America gov’ts reiterate concern over Trump immigration policy

Juan Orlando Hernández, Honduras, gay news, Washington Blade

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández on Oct. 11, 2018, expressed concern over the continued separation of migrant children from their parents during a conference at the State Department. (Photo by Ocastellanos99; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The president of Honduras on Thursday reiterated his government’s concern over the separation of migrant children from their parents after they entered the U.S.

Juan Orlando Hernández in remarks that he gave at the State Department during the opening of the second Conference for Prosperity and Security in Central America said his government has “a solution for the 119 Honduran children who have been separated from their parents here in the United States.”

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Vice President Pence, Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray and Mexican Government Secretary Alfonso Navarrete are co-hosting the two-day conference. Hernández, along with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, Salvadoran Vice President Óscar Ortiz and representatives of Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador are also participating.

Nielsen did not speak at the opening of the conference, but Hernández specifically referred to her in his remarks.

“We have a solution in mind, Secretary Nielsen,” said Hernández, speaking through an interpreter. “If you look at your conscience, if we all put ourself (sic) in the shoes of these parents — imagine if a child from your country found himself or herself in that situation, you could understand the rejection this has caused in my country, the huge pressure we face.”

“It’s a matter of humanity,” he added. “It is impossible to understand for some how an issue that is in the biggest interest of children and family reunification — well, this continues to be a pending matter. I cannot go back to Honduras without an answer.”

Ortiz echoed Hernández’s concerns.

“We are very concerned about family reunification, especially about the young children that have remained here in the United States,” said Ortiz, also speaking through an interpreter.

The Trump administration earlier this year announced it will end the Temporary Protected Status program for the up to 200,000 Salvadorans who have received temporary residency permits that allow them to stay in the U.S. Ortiz expressed concern over this decision, even though a federal judge last week temporarily blocked the Trump administration from ending TPS for Salvadorans and citizens of other countries that include Haiti and Nicaragua.

Trump earlier this year reportedly described El Salvador as a “shithole country.”

“The issue of TPS — we need more time in the Northern Triangle,” said Ortiz.

More LGBTI migrants opting to stay in Mexico

Honduras and El Salvador have two of the world’s highest per capita murder rates because of violence that is frequently associated with gangs and drug traffickers.

Anti-LGBTI violence remains commonplace in Central America’s Northern Triangle — which includes Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, poverty and a lack of access to education and health care are among the issues the region’s LGBTI community also face.

LGBTI Salvadorans, Hondurans and Guatemalans are among the more than 225,000 migrants who have tried to enter the U.S. over the last year, even through advocates have told the Washington Blade the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy continues to spark fear throughout the Northern Triangle. Pence at the conference said more than half of undocumented immigrants who have been taken into custody after they entered the U.S. from Mexico during the same period were from El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala.

Roxana Hernández, a transgender Honduran with HIV who was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on May 9 when she asked for asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry near San Diego, died at a New Mexico hospital two weeks later while in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.

A gay Honduran man who is seeking asylum in Mexico told the Blade in July during an interview in Mexico City that he fled the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula earlier this year after gang members attacked him and killed a female friend after they raped her.

Activists in Mexico with whom the Blade spoke said more LGBTI migrants are choosing to remain in their country because of Trump’s immigration policy.

“This man (Trump) speaks and people stay where they are,” said Andrés Cruz Hernández of Comunidad Cultural de Tijuana LGBTI, an LGBTI community center in the Mexican city of Tijuana, during an interview that took place less than a mile from the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

Beachgoers in Tijuana, Mexico, were clearly visible through the wall that marks the U.S.-Mexico border from Border Field State Park in Imperial Beach, Calif., on July 20, 2018. A Border Patrol agent stopped this reporter shortly after he took this picture and asked whether anyone passed drugs and/or other items through the gaps. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Central America governments urged to stop migrant exodus

Honduran first lady Ana García in a June 19 tweet warned Hondurans who want to migrate to the U.S. that they “will be separated from your little ones when you arrive illegally.” García also visited a detention center in McAllen, Texas, after Trump issued an executive order that ended the separation of migrant children from their parents.

Nielsen in July met with Videgaray and the foreign ministers of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala in Guatemala City. Nielson announced the creation of an office within her agency that she said will advise their governments about the reunification of migrant children who have been separated from their parents.

Published reports indicate hundreds of migrants remain separated from their children. The Associated Press on Tuesday reported the children of migrants who have been deported may be put up for adoption.

Pence at the conference reiterated the Trump administration continues to support economic development initiatives in the Northern Triangle. Pence also said the region’s governments must do more to combat violence and stem the flow of migrants.

“The leaders in the room, the governments that you represent, should tell your people don’t put your families at risk by taking the dangerous journey north to attempt to enter the United States illegally,” said Pence. “The truth is your message can probably be summed up by telling them that if they can’t come to the United States legally, they shouldn’t come at all. Say it with strength and say it with compassion as neighbors and as friends because it’s the truth.”

The conference took place two weeks after 28 activists from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua attended a workshop outside of the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa that focused on bolstering the LGBTI community’s participation in the region’s political process. The LGBTI Victory Fund organized the gathering alongside two advocacy groups from Honduras and Guatemala.

The American flag flies over the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador, on July 13, 2018. Vice President Pence on Oct. 11, 2018, said the Trump administration will provide more aid to the governments of El Salvador and other Northern Triangle countries if they curb the number of migrants who are trying to enter the U.S. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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