FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How US Immigration Policies Endangered Central American and Cuban Children

by

Leaving parents behind, 57,000 children crossed into the United States without papers between October 2013 and June, 2014. They were fleeing deadly violence in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Numbers have been up for three years.  No arrangements were in place along the U.S. southwest border for quick and certain refuge and children now languish in detention centers. Having faced one humanitarian crisis, they were confronting another.

The Texas governor mobilized the National Guard, anti-immigrant protesters targeted the children, and on July 14 the first plane carrying exclusively mothers and children returned 22 children to San Pedro Sula in Honduras.

Restrictive immigration policies applying to Latin Americans dovetail with other U.S. measures harmful to poor people in the region, and elsewhere, among them free trade agreements, U.S. aid to the region’s repressive military and police forces, a green light for multi-national corporations, and alliances with wealthy classes of many countries.

Children are the losers. U.S. assumptions as regards immigration that strategic goals come first relegate children’s needs to an afterthought. That this is so even for would-be Cuban migrants, whose emigration experience has been radically different, bolsters that argument.

Cubans about to migrate can count on U.S. acceptance. No one else in the world enjoys such welcome. The Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) of 1966 enables all Cubans to gain permanent residence a year after their arrival, and expect citizenship. The legislation’s purpose was propaganda. The U.S. open door encouraged many Cubans to leave as economic migrants, but the official line was that they were refugees from so-called “communist tyranny.”

Cuban children have suffered under the CAA. As with their Central American counterparts, the departure of parents, siblings, uncles, and aunts from Cuba served to break-up families. The separation fostered by these policies was no small matter.  Many Cuban migrants died, and children too, when dangerous waters of the Florida Straits swallowed up small boats carrying them.

The U.S. – sponsored “Operation Peter Pan” was especially dismissive of Cuban children. From late 1960 through October, 1962, over 14,000 Cuban children departed the island for Miami, unaccompanied by family members. Some parents were victims to the manufactured fear that Cuba’s revolutionary government was about to take custody of their children.

The U.S. State Department allowed a Catholic priest to sign visa waivers for the children. The Church’s Miami Diocese received and processed the children. And according to a former CIA agent, the “Agency forged a law to make affluent Cubans believe the revolutionary government planned to usurp parental control. [CIA official Maurice] Bishop’s agents in Cuba spread this rumor, backed by a forged simulation of the supposed law, to members of the professional and propertied classes.” (CIA official David Atlee Phillips used the alias “Maurice Bishop.”)

Peter Pan children, removed from the island as part of U.S. efforts to destabilize Cuba’s revolutionary government, did not fare well. Many would never see their parents again. Some lived with family members in the United States, but at least half ended up in group, foster, or adoptive homes, or in orphanages.

The Cuban parents acted under impulses similar to those of parents half a century later in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador; they were taking steps to save their children from death at the hands of thugs and security forces.  The situations were different, but on both occasions parents were desperate enough to send unaccompanied children to presumed safety in the United States.

The children, pawns in both instances, fell victim to international power politics, and any imperative that children thrive and survive didn’t amount to much. But human parents, in common with those of other species, know their job is to protect their children’s lives. Long ago, little-known defenders of children devised rescue missions, and governments complied.

Just prior to World War II humanitarians arranged for thousands of unaccompanied Central European children, mostly Jewish, to go to London for safety via the “kindertransport;” 1400 others went to the United States. German attacks prompted evacuation of thousands of British children to Commonwealth nations. In 1912, supporters of striking “Bread and Roses” textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts arranged for strikers’ children to leavetemporarily forNew York City, or Vermont.

The role of parents was less clear in efforts to protect Greek children during that country’s failed communist revolution in the late 1940’s. The communists moved thousands of them to orphanages in Eastern Europe while the royalist Greek government sent others to foster homes and camps inside Greece.

Who then defends children, other than parents? Individuals, NGO’s, and United Nations agencies surely do so, motivated as they are by morality, ideas of legality, or what looks like cruelty. But are their efforts enough, when big operators set the rules?  One looks to the day when a broad, internationalized, people-centered movement takes up the cause of children as part of securing all people’s basic needs. Now what’s required is “all hands on deck.” As a friend of the writer, someone who has lived abroad for 15 years, askss:  “How is it possible the majority of the U.S. public can turn their backs on these kids?”

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.  

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail