• Gary White

Why do Guatemalans leave their homeland? During the last half of the 20th century, the nation of Guatemala was governed by a military regime. Guerrilla insurgencies against the regime led to decades of brutal counter-insurgency measures which resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths among the ethnic Maya people. The counter-insurgency actions have now been classified as genocide. They included massacres of mostly unarmed civilians, torture and sexual violence. In the 1980s, world trade policies were altered to allow inexpensive corn imports from the United States into Guatemala. Native corn farmers were forced into debt or financial ruin. Mayas saw this as an extension of the genocide. There were worldwide protests on their behalf, but for many poor Guatemalans, enough was enough. Few bothered to protest. Many just began to flee, striking out for new lives in other countries. In recent years, emigration has only increased. Rural people remain poor and vulnerable. Guatemala has the world’s 3rd highest rate of chronic malnutrition. The wartime culture of impunity still tacitly allows the abuse and murder of women. An average of 62 Guatemalan women are murdered each month. And even though past U.S. government policies supported oppressive Guatemalan regimes, while present U.S. policies are trying to cut off Guatemalans’ ability to cross our border legally, for many in Guatemala migration remains the ultimate strategy for survival, and the United States remains the destination of greatest hope. Legally, constitutionally, many of these immigrants are still eligible to seek asylum at our borders. And that’s what they will do.

  • Rev. Carrie Cesar

6. Don’t worry about anything but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. 7. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. Philippians 4:6-7 Contemporary English Version (CEV) Some say that it is only in facing life’s struggles that you get closer to God. I also think that when you are walking alongside someone dealing with enormous problems you have the opportunity to build up your faith. Facing struggles with a thankful heart is what the early church taught its followers to do. And the world has not changed so much as to be rid of problems. Trouble is everywhere; nations, states, cities, neighborhoods and households are faced with all kinds of challenges. It is almost impossible not to worry, but as soon as we start, we must learn to take it to God and ask God for help. When we remember that we are not alone, we can find new strength. Jesus promises to be with us until the end of time, and just as they guarded him, there are angels watching over us, protecting us as we live and breathe into each situation. In prison ministry and immigration ministry one of the hardest struggles is to not lose your identity with Christ. It is an important way to give another self-worth when you recognize them for being beautifully created by God. Why? Because that is the first thing that happens when you go through customs or are incarcerated: Your identity is checked and questioned, and in most cases they try to steal from you any of the goods you are holding on to in getting through this passage in life to a better place. It is easy to feel you are losing yourself because you are physically so stressed out by the circumstances surrounding you. When we are strong in the fact that we belong to Christ, God can give us the peace and the frame of mind to do what needs to be done. Struggling together and knowing that God will work to bring good out of whatever is happening, is all it takes to experience God’s power in turning things around. God’s gift of peace will bring glory to the ugly situations we face. Let us face them together, encouraging each other to pray continuously, to pray in thanksgiving and to pray fully trusting that God will hear our prayers.

  • Gary White

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

Why do Salvadorans flee their homeland?

Simply put, though the journey to asylum is long and sometimes dangerous, for some Salvadorans it’s far more dangerous to stay where they are. The threat faced by Salvadorans at home can be summarized in two words: Gang violence. The activities of rival gangs MS13 and 18th Street have given El Salvador one of the highest murder rates in the world. On average, eighteen Salvadorans are found murdered or simply disappear each day. Salvadoran gangs operate like branches of the Mafia: Fighting each other for territory, extorting protection money from local businesses, and killing with impunity. Sadly, the gang culture of El Salvador has roots in the United States. During a 12-year civil war that began in 1980, hundreds of Salvadoran families sought asylum in the States. Living in poverty in inner-city Los Angeles, Salvadoran youth became active in Southern California’s gang culture. Many were arrested and deported back to El Salvador, taking their gang affiliations with them. At home they built up their numbers by recruiting bitter ex-guerillas from the civil war. The result has been savage, pervasive and virtually unchecked gang violence in the streets of El Salvador. Some see a ray of hope in the election this year of 37-year-old Nayib Bukele as El Salvador’s President. Running on an anti-establishment platform, Bukele has promised to temper gang violence by addressing its roots in economic and social injustice. He’s appealing for patience, but at the same time attempting to show quick reductions in gang activity by more extreme police action including searches, raids and general intimidation. Many say this is only adding to El Salvador's ethos of violence. Meanwhile, seekers of asylum continue northward.


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