Malcolm X was maligned for saying when President John Kennedy was murdered, that it was “chickens coming home to roost.” He meant the violence we practiced around the world was coming home to us. One only needs to reflect upon our history to recall many instances in which we have chosen the route of violence over other means to settle a problem.
Some of those cases involved destabilizing governments and overthrowing leaders in other countries that did not suit our political taste. Yes, we have done it in Africa, Central America and in other parts of the world.
Our economic and political policies with Central America have contributed to some of the problems this region has today. Our hands are not clean and the huge issue that we have with refugee children crossing our border is related to our long-term relationships with the struggling countries in the region.
In his book, “Confessions of An Economic Hit Man,” John Perkins describes his long-term job with the CIA doing the dirty business of going into countries whose politics offended our government for one reason or another and organizing economic destabilizing structures in those countries. He also arranged the overthrow of governments when it was deemed necessary to achieve the desired ends.
While he is talking about deliberate means of destabilization there are other kinds of problems that occur from economic practices that might actually have been started with good intentions. A good example of that is occurring in Guatamela. Because of our increase in ethanol production, our corn demand has skyrocketed and their corn can be sold to us, thus causing their prices to rise because they have begun to import corn. Tortillas have doubled in price as a result of this new market. Along with the price hikes much of their farmland is being converted to raise sugar cane and oil palm for biofuel.
Of course this opening up of new markets does not have to lead to greater deprivation, but all of us understand how greed controls wealth distribution so those who have too little will have less and those who have much power and wealth will continue to have more.
This “surge” of young people crossing the border from Central America is not something that started in the last few weeks as our news reports would seem to imply. It has been going on for quite some time. In 2013 there were, 38,833 minors apprehended by the Border Patrol. This was a 59 percent increase from 2012 and 142 percent increase from 2011. It is predicted the number will rise to 74,000 this year. Most of these youngsters are coming from Guatamela, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico.
Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate, El Salvador has the second highest in spite of its gang truce of 2012 and Guatemala has the fifth highest. Many of these youngsters are fleeing devastating poverty, crime and violent abuse from family members and various gangs. These facts have led the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to conclude that many of the children coming across our border “have suffered, been threatened, or feared serious harm,” that could lead to their need to have international protection.
So as our fellow citizens stand with their signs and angry voices in California or any other place where we might be asked to offer hospitality to these children, we need to pause and reflect upon a few facts. First of all, our nation is not without responsibility for some of the problems they are facing in their own countries.
Secondly, we are a nation of immigrants and former slaves living on somebody else’s land -- the native people -- those who were here before us. We need to pause, remember and speak a word for radical hospitality.
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.