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Winnipeg Free Press – ONLINE EDITION
U.S. response to border-crossing kids inhumane
By: Randy Jurado Ertll, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
The Obama administration should stop deporting children. Unfortunately, it seems dead set on doing that.
On June 20, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met in Guatemala with senior officials from that country, as well as from El Salvador and Honduras. More than 20,000 children from these nations were apprehended on the border last year, twice as many as the year before. This year, the United States is projecting that 90,000 children from these countries will try to cross the border.
Biden notified the Central American leaders that the United States would detain and deport the children who are coming here for refuge from the violence they see every day.
Gangs in these countries are specifically targeting and recruiting young children. If they choose not to join, then they are often murdered. So children are trying to get to the United States any way they can. The Border Patrol apprehends most of them, and holds them in detention centres. Some have been temporarily released to family members before the immigration service processes them and deports them.
The Obama administration has announced that it is now going to stop releasing children to family members. Instead, it plans to build more detention centres and expel children more quickly.
This is not a humane response.
If they are deported, many of these children will be recruited to join the gangs. Others will be tortured or murdered or disappeared.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres earlier this year declared that a majority of the children emigrating from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras deserve protection under international treaties. “We must uphold the human rights of the child,” he said.
But rather than offer these children temporary asylum, the Obama administration is locking them up and then sending them packing.
Biden was blunt during his Central American visit.
“Those who are pondering risking their lives to reach the United States should be aware of what awaits them,” he said. “It will not be open arms. … We’re going to send the vast majority of you back.” That is unacceptable. We need to designate most of these children as refugees and treat them with the compassion they deserve.
World Refugee Day was on June 20, but President Obama chose not to mention the Central American children who deserve such status.
He did acknowledge that “some refugees simply cannot return home because the risk of violence and persecution is too great.” He needs to apply that reasoning to the tens of thousands of children fleeing violence in Central America. Then he needs to change his policy accordingly.
Let us not forget our humanity.
Randy Jurado Ertll is the author of the recent book Hope in Times of Darkness: A Salvadoran American Experience.
Randy Jurado Ertll will be discussing & signing his books on Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 6:00 p.m.
126 N. Larchmont Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Please RSVP by e-mailing me at RANDYERTLL@YAHOO.COM
An inspiration…[and] testament to the power of an individual to overcome obstacles and make a difference.
- Rampa R. Hormel, environmentalist and president of Enlyst Fund
The book speaks to a hope for a different world and finds even in the most dispiriting of experiences the seeds of change and social justice. This should be required reading…
- Warren Montag, chair of the English and Comparative Literary Studies Department at Occidental College
This is a story that young people everywhere should read as it demonstrates how much every one of them could contribute to a better future for themselves and their communities.
- Margaret E. Crahan, director, Kozmetsky Center, distinguished professor at St. Edward’s University
A heart-felt and heart-warming story…while it is one man’s story, it is also the story of so many who build new lives with perseverance, determination, and compassion.
- Henrik Rehbinder, editorial page editor of La Opinion
Hope in Times of Darkness: A Salvadoran American Experience by Randy Jurado Ertll is a slim and pithy memoir by a Pasadena resident who overcame the kinds of obstacles that are common to recent immigrants from Central America….In his gritty littlememoir, Ertll chronicles the trajectory of his life in Los Angeles and Pasadena. Living first in South Los Angeles, he struggled to survive elementary school because he didn’t speak English. Eventually, a love of learning and a few caring teachers helpedhim turn away from the lure of drugs and gang violence that permeated his neighborhood. Many of his friends weren’t so fortunate, ending up dead or in prison. Ertll writes: Poor minorities went on being innocent victims of drive-bys, armed robberies, beatings and murder. Those who suffered the most were beaten by both the police and gang members. They were scared to report crimes because they feared they would be deported or accused of the crimes. Unable to speak English, they had no way to defend themselves. Ertll found ways to defend himself – first, on the streets and eventually, through education. He graduated from Occidental College and worked for Congresswoman (now U.S. Secretary of Labor) Hilda Solis. Then he worked for Pasadena (now LAUSD) Supe
- Pasadena Star News, June 2010
Vivid, urgent, original, Randy Jurado Ertll’s story compels us to grapple with some of the most urgent issues of our times.
- Matt Rothschild, editor of The Progressive Magazine
Hope in Times of Darkness: A Salvadoran American Experience by Randy Jurado Ertll is a slim and pithy memoir by a Pasadena resident who overcame the kinds of obstacles that are common to recent immigrants from Central America….In his gritty little memoir, Ertll chronicles the trajectory of his life in Los Angeles and Pasadena. Living first in South Los Angeles, he struggled to survive elementary school because he didn’t speak English. Eventually, a love of learning and a few caring teachers helped him turn away from the lure of drugs and gang violence that permeated his neighborhood. Many of his friends weren’t so fortunate, ending up dead or in prison. Ertll writes: “Poor minorities went on being innocent victims of drive-bys, armed robberies, beatings and murder. Those who suffered the most were beaten by both the police and gang members. They were scared to report crimes because they feared they would be deported or accused of the crimes. Unable to speak English, they had no way to defend themselves.” Ertll found ways to defend himself – first, on the streets and eventually, through education. He graduated from Occidental College and worked for Congresswoman (now U.S. Secretary of Labor) Hilda Solis. Then he worked for Pasadena (now LAUSD) Superintendent Ray Cortines and eventually became executive director of Pasadena’s nonprofit El Centro de Accion Social. He is now devoted to helping other immigrants overcome the obstacles in their way to becoming productive, contributing Americans.
- Pasadena Star News, June 2010
In his gritty little memoir, Ertll chronicles the trajectory of his life in Los Angeles and Pasadena.
- Dailynews.Com, Sgvtribune,Whittierdailynews.Com, Pasadenasta, 6/19/2010
LATINOS REMEMBER TWO ICONS
By Randy Jurado Ertll
The last week of March is a time of remembrance for Latinos. We celebrate Cesar Chavez’s birthday, and we honor the memory of Archbishop Oscar Romero.
Chavez was born on March 31, 1927, in Yuma, Arizona. His parents and siblings worked the fields in California, as he did. He served in the U.S. Navy for two years and then returned to the fields.
In the 1950s, he became an organizer (a much-maligned profession) with the Community Service Organization, and in 1962, he co-founded, with Dolores Huerta, the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers.
With his commitment to nonviolence and his hunger strikes, Chavez drew national attention to the plight of farmworkers and was instrumental in bringing them a modicum of justice.
Romero was born on August 15, 1917, in El Salvador. He entered the priesthood as a young man. A traditionalist for most of his life, Romero became much more liberal when he was appointed archbishop of San Salvador in 1977.
He denounced the widespread poverty in his country. And he condemned the military’s common practice of torture and assassination of peasant organizers, unionists and human rights activists.
Romero himself was assassinated by a right-wing death squad on March 24, 1980, while celebrating mass. A huge crowd of about 250,000 attended his funeral.
Today, the Vatican is considering making him a saint.
These two iconic heroes had something in common: an unbreakable belief in Catholic spirituality and a true commitment to social justice.
Even as we celebrate both of them this week, we should remember they were quite controversial in their day.
Chavez was seen by some as a rabble-rouser.
Romero dared to take on the power structure in his country.
They both chose not to follow certain established rules. They both denounced inhumane laws and practices.
They were willing to fight for the invisible people. And they both had an extraordinary connection and commitment to farmworkers.
In fact, it was the campesinos (the farmworkers) who revolutionized Romero. He met with them often and saw their pain and suffering. He decided to take on their fight for respect and equality. He chose to give his life for the Salvadoran people.
Chavez and Romero made the powerful uncomfortable. And they sacrificed their health in doing so. But they did not sell out. No one was able to buy Chavez or Romero, and they shunned material possessions and wealth.
They were not perfect. For instance, Chavez was not fully supportive of undocumented immigrants. He was not enamored of Central American undocumented immigrants who allegedly had communist leanings or those he perceived as a threat to farmworkers who were here legally.
But both men made a huge difference. They showed all of us how powerful we can be if we stand up for our beliefs, even if it means breaking the rules, even if it means risking our lives.
Randy Jurado Ertll (www.randyjuradoertll.com) is the author of the book “The Life of an Activist: In the Frontlines 24/7.”