This speech was delivered at the Tisha B’Av Rally to #CloseTheCamps on Sunday, August 11, 2019 at the Howard County Detention Center.
By Leslie Salgado, Chair of Friends of Latin America (FoLA)
Thank you to the Jewish organizations for dedicating this special day — Tisha B’Av – to show your solidarity with migrants. Thank you also for inviting us to participate!
The organization I represent, Friends of Latin America, started as Howard County Friends of Central America in the mid 1980’s in response to US policies of war in Central America. Over the last more than three decades, this is what we have learned:
- The US government armed and heavily funded the governments of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
- The US government provoked a civil war in El Salvador.
- The US oversaw the genocide of indigenous peoples by the Guatemalan government in the 1980s. Hondurans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans are political refugees fleeing these U.S.-backed regimes!
- The US government supported a coup against the elected government of Honduras in 2009 and then backed the fraudulent election of the current Honduran president in 2017.
- With the complicity of anti-popular governments in Mexico and Central America, the US imposed unfair economic trade agreements. Mexican and Central American farmers could not compete with subsidized US corn.
So, we have to ask ourselves: Why do poor Latin American migrants continue to leave their homes, their families, and everything they know and love in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and elsewhere? Why are they embarking on this dangerous journey North even though they are not welcome here?
- They are fleeing gun violence. 70% of the guns used by criminals in Mexico, and nearly half in Central America, are US made guns.
- They are fleeing gang violence. Central American gangs started in Los Angeles and other US cities after fleeing civil wars funded by the US government back in the 1980’s and 90’s. They were then deported to Central America, particularly to El Salvador
- They are fleeing government repression.
- They are leaving because multinational corporations have taken over their land for industrial farming, mining, or tourism and threaten those who resist displacement.
- They are leaving because their land was taken over to produce sugar, palm oil, soybeans, corn, or other biofuel crops, rather than crops for local consumption.
- They are forced to leave because persistent droughts, caused by climate change, have destroyed their livelihood.
We need to connect the dots. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did make the connections, although he was not alive to see this tragic turn of events: Riverside Church, New York City, April 4, 1967
“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: ‘This is not just,’ It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: ‘This is not just.’ The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.”
IMMIGRANTS ARE NOT CRIMINALS!
- Immigrants are hard-working people who want better lives for their families.
- Current immigration debates are based on a manufactured crisis, so we don’t think about the real crisis: the systemic CORRUPTION that is coming from the top at the White House.
- Instead of building walls and prisons for profits, instead of selling machine guns that can be used in mass shootings, and instead of forcing regime changes in other parts of the world, our tax dollars should be used to address real critical issues, such as:
- How to counteract climate change
- How to provide health care for all,
- How to stop gun violence
- How to stop white supremacy
- Let me read a quote from Anne Frank written on January 13, 1943: “Terrible things are happening outside…. poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. Families are being torn apart; men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find that their parents have disappeared.”
- Institutionalized anti-immigrant violence is alive. ICE has been established as the weapon against immigrants to do these terrible things:
- They detain working migrants because of what they look like;
- They separate children from their parents;
- They detain pregnant women;
- They detain immigrants with disabilities and other medical conditions;
- Immigrants detained by ICE don’t have a right to a lawyer.
It is contradictory for Howard County to have a contract with ICE. According to its stated laws, no one can be discriminated based on: race, color, creed, national origin, source of income, familial status, sex, occupation, religion, political opinion, personal appearance, disability, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity.
- We know that ICE targets and arbitrarily arrests people because of their race, color, national origin, personal appearance, occupation, etc. This is a clear violation of Howard County laws.
- We are calling for an end to the contract Howard County has with ICE.
- We want everyone in our community to feel safe.
- We don’t want to be complicit with any type of human rights violations.
- We want to welcome all immigrants in Howard County.
NO to ICE! Stop separating families! Immigrant rights are human rights!
NO HATE, NO FEAR, IMMIGRANTS ARE WELCOME HERE!