Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity

Root Causes of Migration Pilgrimage Report

Honduras - December 2016

2016-12-13 13.51.12.jpgThe Delegation

In Dec. 2016, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity led a  third delegation of religious leaders to Central America to listen, witness and better understand the root causes of migration as a response to the increasing flow of migrant youth and families from Central America since 2014.  A primary goal was to investigate more deeply beyond the simple reasons of “violence and poverty,” to get at the root causes, and to hear proposed solutions from the Honduran social movement. Our 10-day delegation consisted of 13 persons from California, Illinois, New York, Washington DC and Canada, representing the  United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalists, Sisters of St. Joseph and other Roman Catholics.

We met with organizations fighting the underlying causes of migration, and an organization searching for family members disappeared on the migrant trail. We witnessed the daily return of hundreds of Hondurans by plane from the U.S. and met with an organization providing support and job training to those who have been deported back to Honduras.  We met with communities of subsistence farmers and indigenous Lenca and Garifuna communities fighting the theft of their lands and extraction of their natural resources, and, as a result, facing targeted threats and assassinations of their leaders.  The violence and displacement has greatly increased since the 2009 coup.  We met the mother of assassinated leader, Berta Caceres, and garment factory union leaders fighting for safe working conditions and a livable wage.  We were expertly guided by the Jesuit organization, Radio Progreso/ERIC, celebrating its 60th Anniversary.

We observed that Honduras is rich in natural resources, but the vast majority of Honduran people are being impoverished by deliberate policies.  We were surprised to learn that the problem of gangs is not a root cause in itself, but is enabled by a climate of impunity and corruption.  Gangs committing extortions and violence are the foot soldiers of drug cartels complicit with the highest levels of Honduran government and elites.

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Identifying 10 Root Causes of Migration from Honduras

1.         Displacement of people through privatization of land and natural resources that we saw in mega-projects:  dams, mining, tourist resorts, plantations and highways.
 Poverty resulting from lack of job opportunities and fair wages by international companies and sweatshops.

3.          Environmental Degradation resulting from banana and palm oil plantations, deforestation and mining, causing community displacement and loss of means of survival.
Repression of Peaceful Civil Protest through military force, private security services and gangs.
Criminalization of land defenders and union leaders seeking to reclaim their rights.  
Complicity and widespread corruption of police, military, corporations, and Honduran elite in drug trafficking and resulting violence.
Impunity of nearly 100% of violent crimes committed.
Failure to Enforce National and International Law protecting the rights of indigenous communities to prior consultation & consent on projects impacting their natural resources.
U.S. Military Aid and Security Assistance amplifies militarization of the Honduran military and contributes to the escalating violations of human rights.  
10.         A global
economic and political system that promotes an economy of extraction, privatization and the accumulation of  wealth in the hands of a few.  

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Policy Recommendations:

1.  Pass the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Bill in the US Congress to cut off US military aid to Honduras.

2.  Pressure the Honduran government to turn over the investigation of Berta Caceres’ assassination to an independent international body and to protect land defenders and human rights activists.

3.  Challenge the simplistic narrative that faults only the “gangs” without addressing the corruption and inextricable involvement of police, military, private security paramilitary groups, government and national elites in the violence.

4. US funding to Honduras should be directed to support social and economic programs designed in consultation with local communities, not police and security aid. US government should strengthen the human rights conditions of US aid to leverage advances in human rights and combat corruption.  

5.  Foreign investors and International Financial institutions should halt investments causing the violence: mining, dams, logging, tourism, agroexport business.

How you can help:

On our journey we encountered a powerful, dedicated grassroots resistance in Honduras, young and old, willing to give their lives for their homes, rivers, waters and forests so that someday Hondurans will no longer have to leave their country to survive.  They gave us hope!  Here is how we can help their efforts.

1.          Contact your Congressperson to support the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Bill to restrict US military aid to Honduras and to ensure any US aid is conditioned and truly serves and empowers local communities.  Congressional Switchboard: 202-225-3121
.          Educate your family, friends, and congregations about the root causes of migration from Honduras. 

3.          Support grassroots organizations fighting to protect Mother Earth by raising  money to provide emergency solidarity aid to Honduras.  Contact the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity (IM4HI) to find out organizations you can support.

4.          Welcome and support immigrants from Central America by accompanying them to court, providing affordable housing  and engaging your congregation, city or school to join the Sanctuary Movement.  We can help you get started.

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    Lenca Community of Rio Blanco defending the Rio Gualcarque from Hydroelectric company DESA.

Learn More:

See our Root Causes Blog:

Justice for Berta Website:  www.Berta    
Solidarity with Honduras Website:
Watch and share the film
Guardian of the Rivers:
News about Honduras:

2016 Delegation Members:  Jose Artiga, Alejandro Artiga-Purcell, Diana Bohn, Gloria E., Shannon Engeland, Rev. Terry Gallagher, Francisco Herrera, Rev. Deborah Lee, Kristen Lionetti,  Suzanne Llewellyn, Victoria Purcell-Gates PhD., Julie Steinbach, Phyllis Tierney, SSJ.