Things That Matter

Protests Are Growing Across Honduras As People Ask For President Juan Orlando Hernandez To Step Down

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There is growing violence in Honduras as people have taken to the streets to voice their dismay over President Juan Orlando Hernandez. Public demonstrations started back in April after proposed health and education reforms that doctors and teachers fear would privatize their sectors. The decrees have angered many in the country and have caused other workers from other sectors to joined in on protests. This has all led growing calls for President Hernandez to step down.

What’s really going on in Honduras?

When decrees were issued by President Hernandez in April, the Honduran education and health ministers were given free rein to implement austerity measures. Since then, Honduras has been in turmoil with growing protests putting the president under constant pressure.

Many feel that the current Honduran administration has failed to create opportunities for anyone but the richest in the country. There has also been concerns of corruption and increasingly authoritarian force by the government.

Teachers and medical workers would eventually form the Platform for the Defence of Health and Education in Honduras to demand the government repeal the proposed decrees. But even after the proposals were shut down too late. Since then, massive protests in the streets of Tegucigalpa, the capital, and around the country have formed.

Many feel that there are less job and growth opportunities in Honduras which have led to a surge in people leaving the country.

Hondurans currently represent 30 percent of Central American migrants detained at the U.S. border this year. This up from 13 percent back in 2016, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Advocates say lack of upward mobility nad mass corruption has hurt the economy. This has all been fueled by crime and has prevented the government from creating programs needed to keep people in the country.

“The situation here in Honduras has been bad for years,” Josué, 20, told the BBC back in January. “One tries to make it north, that’s our dream, because here even when you do have work, what you get paid is only just enough to eat.”

Protests have turned dangerous and there have been calls of excessive force by military police.

Images have flooded social media showing protesters in masks calling for the resignation of President Hernandez. Military police were deployed across Honduras last week after protests left three dead, including a 29-year-old man who died from gunshot wounds.

This week, around 40 military police met protesters at the National Autonomous University of Honduras. They fired tear gas on protesters who in return threw rocks at them, injuring at least four people.

Protests are anticipated to continue this week as Honduras marks the 10th anniversary of its 2009 military coup, where left-wing president Manuel Zelaya was ousted just seven months before his term was set to end.

Public demonstrations erupted and lasted for weeks. Elections were held shortly after, which many considered illegitimate. The National Party came to power and has ruled over the government ever since. Hernandez was first elected in 2013.

What’s going to happen moving forward in Honduras?

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It’s hard to see peace being restored anytime soon in Honduras as many are fleeing the country and nearby El Salvador. As the U.S. has backed President Hernandez, there seems to be no sign that his tenure will be coming to an end in the near future.

What most people fear is the continuation of a failing economy and rising prices for health, food and fuel shortages around the country. It seems that only a change in government or a peaceful resolution with leaders will spark new hope in Honduras.

READ: Migrants Will No Longer Have Access To English Classes, Ping-Pong, Soccer Or Legal Services Under New Policy

A Father And Daughter Were Separated By U.S. Immigration Only To Reunite On Her Deathbed

Things That Matter

A Father And Daughter Were Separated By U.S. Immigration Only To Reunite On Her Deathbed

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It is with unrelenting sadness that we report the death of Heydi Gámez García, 13, who took her life after her father’s asylum request was denied for the third time. Heydi’s father, Manuel Gámez, sent her to the U.S. after his father was gunned down by MS-13 for refusing to pay a “war tax” to the gang. He didn’t expect that Heydi would be granted asylum, but that he would be deported.

Manuel certainly didn’t envision that his goodbye hug and kiss four years ago would be the last time he would hug and kiss his daughter while she was still alive.

The Gámaz family was broken by MS-13 and failed again by the U.S. immigration system.

Credit: @amy_baker22 / Twitter

Heydi’s mother walked out on her and her dad when she was less than two months old. By the time Heydi was a year old, Manuel left for New York as an undocumented immigrant to make money to send back home. After his father was killed by MS-13, and his mother’s health started failing, he worried about who would care for Heydi and his younger sister, Zoila.

Manuel’s sister was granted asylum and cared for Heydi in his absence in New York.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

A year after his father’s death, he sent Heydi, Zoila and his brother to the U.S. Heydi and Zoila were granted asylum. Heydi learned English within a year and started teaching her father, via phone calls, how to correctly pronounce English words. They spoke every day, always asking when he’d come.

After two failed attempts to gain asylum, Heydi lost hope for being reunited and started cutting herself.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

He never wanted to make promises he couldn’t keep, like being there for her quinceañera. Heydi watched her classmates complain about their parents’ visiting their school and fell into a depression. In December, she was brought to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation after cutting her wrist at school. She was seeing a therapist until two months before her suicide.

“Please forgive me for failing you,” Manuel wants to tell his daughter.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there… I never meant to leave you,” he says to her. Heydi was Manuel’s only child. Heydi’s aunt is coping with impossible guilt. She told CNN, “I was supposed to be protecting her. I would never send her to Honduras. But I never thought something bad would happen to her here.”

Manuel was released on a two week ‘humanitarian’ visit to release Heydi from life support.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

He finally got to hold her hand and comfort her as she left this life behind. “We love you,” he whispered to her. “Don’t leave us.”

The last thing Heydi told anyone was that she lost hope in being reunited with her father.

Credit: @MaryJaneKnows / Twitter

She was crying as she told her aunt that she feels hopeless and that one day, she’ll become a lawyer to help her dad’s case. She then said she wanted to be alone and was found two hours later in a closet. She didn’t leave a note.

She was declared brain dead a week later at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens.

Dr. Charles Schleien told CNN that she was in a “neurologically devastated state” upon arrival with “no hope for recovery.” He went on to disclose that the Gámaz family “chose to turn tragedy into the gift of life. Heydi is an organ donor and her final act will be to save others.”

The mental health impacts of family separation at our borders can only be told one story at a time.

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It is the only empathic way to relate to the emotional scars of our community. Every story is important. Every life lost to policies that don’t incorporate the most visceral human desires, like growing up with your father by your side, is one life too many. 

What on earth are we doing?

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How can anyone go about business as usual? How do we humanize brown-skinned people to every voter and decision-maker? The only way we know how is to continually voice your concerns to your representatives and create space for these stories. Don’t look away. The grief of the Gámaz family is all of our grief. 

A Manuel, you did not fail your daughter. We all did. We are so sorry.

PHOTOS: People Are Showing Up All Over The Country To Tell Trump To #CloseTheCamps

Things That Matter

PHOTOS: People Are Showing Up All Over The Country To Tell Trump To #CloseTheCamps

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As Fourth of July came and went, Americans reconsidered what it meant to be An American. The U.S. claims to be based on liberty and justice for all yet, migrant families are detained in deplorable conditions and children are caged in federal concentration camps. The Fourth of July parades around the country reflected American concern and outrage over recent images of children in cages, and the parades aren’t stopping anytime soon.

Mass days of action, organized by advocacy group MoveOn, have been scheduled, and this week saw 185 mobilizations alone. Here are the most visceral, powerful photos of the #CloseTheCamps protests thus far.

In case anyone is desensitized to seeing photos of brown kids in cages, here are some white kids in a cage speaking out.

Credit: @jacobsoboroff / Twitter

The photo, taken in Ojai, California during a Fourth of July march, caused a huge stir on social media. These are children, just like anyone else’s child, who absolutely, never ever belong in cages.

This Independence Day Lady Liberty was passing out flyers for the July 12 demonstrations.

Credit: @RiveraSunAuthor / Twitter

“I was Lady Liberty inviting everyone to stand up for the freedoms of all people,” tweets @RiveraSunAuthor. It doesn’t take a large number of people to make and a big and lasting impact. Just do your part and raise awareness immediately around you.

While this protester in Maine wanted to remind the President of the actual law.

Credit: @Individisble_MDI / Twitter

It’s called human rights, and for most, it’s obvious, but this Lady Liberty wants to spell it out for the bobos in the back. There is power in knowledge and the more we all know the better we can exist as a society.

That same Maine protest committed to showing children’s clothes on a laundry line questioning the meaning of freedom.

Credit: @Individsible_MDI / Twitter

“Freedom? Family? Fun? Close the Camps,” the clothing line reads. This is the kind of civil demonstration that people are looking for right now.

Never Again Action made a culinary masterpiece to fuel their demonstration.

Credit: @NeverActionActn / Twitter

Never Again Action is a Jewish activist group that ensures that #NeverAgain starts right now. The group acknowledges that the “detention centers” fit the criteria for concentration camps that target a group of individuals and jail them without due process. 

“Good Shabbos! Let’s all get the rest we need,” tweeted the advocacy group, “so we can enter next week reenergized and focused on demanding our government #CloseTheCamps.”

Over 30 Jewish activists have been arrested thus far for their protests.

Credit: @SanctuaryDMV / Twitter

The group has been adamant in reminding folks that Anne Frank didn’t die in the gas chambers. She died from typhus spread by lice because of filthy, unsanitary and crowded conditions. Over twenty immigrants have died in federal custody since the family separation policies began.

Latinos can’t see red stripes without seeing bars.

Credit: @VotoLatino / Twitter

For so many, Independence Day felt like a day of grief. It feels wrong to celebrate freedom when traumatized children are denied the basic human dignity of a bed, soap, and toothpaste. Children deserve better and the U.S. government has failed to give them the most basic needs.

Famous actress Padma Lakshmi made this very American pie on the Fourth.

Credit: @PadmaLakshi / Twitter

“A truly American pie for the bbq today,” she tweeted. Liberty looks a whole lot like #closethecamps.

Just three hours after seeing Lakshmi’s pie, this little girl made a cake of her own.

Credit: @rafaelshimunov / Twitter

“Just three hours after my daughter Nadia saw @PadmaLakshmi’s #CloseTheCamps #July4th pie,” tweets Nadia’s mom. Seeing so many American children who understand the horror of Family Separation raises their fists in the airs is what America looks like.

This Kentucky family came out on July 2nd with a baby-sized protest sign fit for an actual baby.

Credit: @ACLUofKY / Twitter

The Kentucky division of the ACLU tweeted out the photo saying, “Louisville families joined people in 183 other cities today for Close the Camps protests! They demand the closure of migrant detention centers and an end to inhumane conditions. #closethecamps #familiesbelongtogether”

This dedicated protester wants other tax-payers to know that $750 a day per child goes to a private detention company.

Credit: @PaulineHill01 / Twitter 

This group has demonstrated against the current administration every single week for two years. “Today we are in solidarity with others across the country who are against separating children from families. #FamiliesBelongTogether,” tweets Pauline Hill.

This protest group crowded Grant Central station to get the administration’s attention.

Credit: @BPie7 / Twitter

The only way to do that is to get media attention. Every single one of these protests has garnered media attention that starts local and grows to the national press. Once the administration feels public pressure, they’re more obligated to take action.

READ: A Week After AOC Compared Detention Centers To Concentration Camps, Jewish Activists Arrested For Protesting ICE

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