At Masses in our parish there is often a list of Mass intentions. They include concerns about health of family members and about the death of members of the community. Recently I have noticed a good number of intentions asking prayers for family members are trying to reach the United States. Sometimes they are prayers of gratitude for having arrived there.
Radio Progeso recently reported that about 12 Hondurans leave each hour in hopes of reaching the US. Though the issue of migration is not as pronounced here as in other parts of Honduras, it is real.
When I speak with young people here I am sometimes asked about the United States and about migrating there. I always talk about the dangers of the route toward the US, the difficulty of getting jobs there, and the anti-migrant stance that is so strong in some parts of the United States. I also urge them to think how to improve their lives here in their communities, without leaving their families and friends.
This is not an easy discussion. I know that so many young people have little chance of finding meaningful work, even if they have a high school or college education. I see the problems of low salaries and increasing prices and taxes that most affect the poor and the lower middle class. I am deeply concerned about the drought and heat that have plagued farmers in the last months and may result in losses of more than 60% in basic grains in some part of Honduras.
In the midst of this the US has been pressuring Honduras and providing money to curb migration, especially of the young. The US should be revising its immigration laws, but that’s another question.
I don’t know all that the Honduran government is doing but there is one that I have my doubts about.
The government is promoting August as the month of not migrating and to publicize this there are marches by children in the educational centers.
Last Thursday as I was leaving Plan Grande for a catechists’ workshop, two young people I know asked for a ride to the nearby town of Candelaria. They are taking Plan Básico (middle school) classes there in the afternoons and I was surprised to see them going in the morning. I saw two other young people on the road and gave them a ride. One had a wooden “rifle.”
When I got to the corner by the school I found some children lined up for a march – against migration.
The first group was of kindergarten kids who had signs that none of them could read.
There were also a few dressed up for folk dances.
A few of the older students had handmade signs advising against migrating and calling for education and work as ways to stop this.
I don’t know why there were some students with toy weapons, as there had been in El Zapote a week ago. The presence of even toy weapons bothers me because of the message it gives. Weapons are needed. This is a very poor message to give folks, but the increasing use of the military by the Honduran government is, as I see it, only promoting this.
I see that it is important to provide incentives for the people not to migrate. But when the government raises taxes that affect the poor, when the price of basic goods and services increase, when there are not enough employment opportunities and when the government has them they are given to political allies, what are the people to do? They will think seriously about migration, despite the dangers and the costs.
As part of my ministry here I would like to find more ways to help the people, especially the young, find ways to live meaningful and dignified lives in the countryside, with sufficient work and remuneration to feed their families.
That’s the challenge.