From March 10-20, members of the AMMPARO Executive Committee, together with the Presiding Bishop and staff from Mission Advancement visited Central America in order to see the work being done by ELCA AMMPARO companions.
A small group of 6 Executive Committee members were in El Salvador for three days and had the chance to visit the government reception center for migrants deported from the US and Mexico as well as project beneficiaries of the Pastoral del Migrante of Salvadoran Lutheran Church. A larger group including the Presiding Bishop and MA staff visited project beneficiaries of the Lutheran World Federation in Olancho and also of the Mennonite Social Action Commission in San Pedro Sula. Read their brief summary of conclusions here:
1. There are three distinct populations that companions work with: internally displaced, returnees and deported migrants. Internally displaced are those who have left their homes and moved to another town or province for fear of persecution and/or extortion from gangs. Returnees are those who have made attempts to enter the United States but were unsuccessful in reaching the border and were turned back by the Mexican government. Deported migrants are those who were able to enter the United States through irregular channels, and have lived for a long period of time in the US before being deported by the USG.
2. New and innovative work with gang deportees (the Hungry Church in El Salvador) is an exciting new development. They were also defined as deportees without roots – those who have no recollection of the country and don’t speak the language. See the AMMPARO FB page for a video clip.
3. Companions report an astonishing success rate of between 88% and 95% with the returned and deported migrants who no longer are interested and migrating at this time. The impact of ELCA investment in the work of our AMMPARO companions is huge!
4. New advocacy networks of returned migrant youth now exist; they are working to strengthen protections for those returned or deported but are also working on eliminating or mitigating the root causes of migration among youth. New efforts to participate in & influence the agenda of the municipal roundtable in Olancho are a great example.
5. Caravans are the new normal for migration from Central America because of the added protection provided; traveling in caravans seems to be preferred by migrants who don’t have the economic means to pay the high fees charged by coyotes.
6. The murder rate isn’t the only indicator of social violence in the region; extortion practices of gangs are making daily life impossible for small businesses, teachers & students, neighborhood organizations, etc. Also, gender-based violence and toxic masculinity are rampant throughout the region and affect the returned.
7. Most returned/deported migrants are more interested in their own businesses as opposed to schooling or employment opportunities. We saw many examples of micro-enterprises.
8. The stigmatization of the deported and returned is a serious consequence which needs to be addressed societally.
9. Root causes of violence, poverty and climate change were confirmed once again.
10. Government corruption is manifest many forms including ghost offices created for salaries, but no operating expenses. Corruption is a huge issue in both Salvador and Honduras and at all levels.
11. Gang control of schools is another issue resulting in the migration of migrant minors.