Things That Matter

Central Americans Flee Their Countries Because Of Violence But Also Because They Have No Water

The migration from Central America to the North isn’t as simple as people seeking out the American Dream. That is a beautiful fantasy, after all, but it’s not the whole truth. The reason people from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are leaving their country is because of the violence, and it’s also about so much more. It’s a matter of life and death. While murderers are responsible for countless senseless deaths, others are fleeing because of limited resources, and lack of necessary essentials.

Some Salvadorans, especially from poor communities, are fleeing their country because there’s a significant water shortage.

Credit: @m_painter / Twitter

The water crisis in El Salvador isn’t something that just happened overnight. Researchers and organizations have been warning about this catastrophe in El Salvador for decades. The Salvadoran Humanitarian Aid, Research and Education Foundation (SHARE) group documented back in 2007 that impoverished communities demanded water rights in their areas. Most, if not all, of the main water, was going to private companies and being used by the top of society. The most impoverished people in El Salvador, which is a significant group, were being left with nothing. Now, a new study shows that there’s a deadline to the last drop. 

New research shows that the entire country of El Salvador will be unhabitable in 80 years if the water crisis is not rectified.

Credit: @nicadispatch / Twitter

The Defensa de Los Derechos Humanos (PDDH) released a study that showed the dire numbers which led to the government of El Salvador to declare a national emergency.    

“According to the scientific analyzes carried out by different international organizations and analyzed in the present study, if we continue in this logic of deterioration, degradation of water goods in El Salvador, in 80 years life will be unfeasible in the country,” David Morales, head of the PDDH, said, according to EFE. 

The water crisis seems to be the result of two factors: climate change and the privatization of water. 

Credit: @brockaletti / Twitter

The National Geographic reports that after two major natural disasters, El Salvador struggled to recover. In 2014, the country suffered an exceptional drought which left “96,000 Salvadoran families without adequate food,” and millions more going hungry. The following year, El Niño brought even more dry weather. 

“If we want to confront climate change, we first need to have strong governance,” Helga Cuéllar-Marchelli, director of the department of social studies at the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUSADES) told the National Geographic. “We need a joint effort from the central government, municipal governments, civil society, [and] the business sector. If there is no legal framework, it will be very difficult to coordinate efforts.”

The water crisis is forcing members of poor communities to walk for miles to get water from wells only to find there might not be any there for them.

Credit: @ProfRPalacios / Twitter

The “natural” water that is available for poor people isn’t safe to use because it’s contaminated, but because they have no other choice, they use it anyway. 

The publication reports that sewer water that carries intense contamination levels goes straight into natural water, including streams and rivers. It is this water that people use to drink, wash their clothes and bathe. More than 90 percent of this natural water is toxic, and an estimated 6.4 million people are using this contaminated water. 

Early this year, people from El Salvador marched for water rights and people on social media used the hashtag #NoAlaPrivatizacionDelAgua.

Credit: @danalvarenga / Twitter

The protest, led by students, feminists, and advocates of water rights, were also met with pushback from police forces. 

The World Bank reports that local farmers and people trying to survive with their own crops are the ones that are facing this major crisis. Salvadorans aren’t the only ones affected either, but neighboring countries as well. 

“More than half a million families are suffering from what experts call ‘food insecurity,’ – in other words, the lack of food – due to agricultural and livestock losses. According to estimates by Central American governments, Oxfam and other international aid agencies, 236,000 families in Guatemala, 120,000 in Honduras, 100,000 in Nicaragua and 96,000 in El Salvador are already facing this situation.”

Jess Ofelia Alvarenga, an independent reporter, documented how her family, is dealing with the water crisis in El Salvador.

This summer she filmed the struggle her uncle faces with the lack of water. She says he can no longer harvest rice or watermelons. It is this lack of water that is forcing thousands to move to El Salvador’s metropolitan areas, which already has a scarcity of water for the low-income, or flee the country altogether. 

READ: El Salvador’s New President Represents A Change In The Country’s Political System

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Court Orders ICE To Release Children In Their Custody As COVID-19 Tears Through Detention Centers

Things That Matter

Court Orders ICE To Release Children In Their Custody As COVID-19 Tears Through Detention Centers

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

COVID-19 is spiking across the U.S. with 32 states watching as new cases of the virus continue to climb day after day. California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida are among states that have set daily new infection records. With this backdrop, a federal judge has ruled that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) must release children, with their parents, by July 17.

A judge ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release children in detention by a certain date.

U.S. Judge Dolly Gee ordered ICE to act quickly in response to the rampant COVID-19 spread in detention centers to protect the health of migrants. Judge Gee is giving ICE until July 17 to comply and release all children that have been in the agency’s custody.

U.S. Judge Gee ruled that the threat of the pandemic is great where the children are being held.

“Given the severity of the outbreak in the counties in which FRCs are located and the Independent Monitor and Dr. Wise’s observations of non-compliance or spotty compliance with masking and social distancing rules, renewed and more vigorous efforts must be undertaken to transfer (children) residing at the FRCs to non-congregate settings,” Judge Gee wrote in her order.

Concerned politicians and public figures are celebrating the judge’s order.

The order is aimed specifically at the Family Residential Centers (FRCs) and Office of Refugee Resettlement camps across the country. The virus has been running rampant in detention centers and prisons and, according to the judge, unsurprisingly the virus has made it to the FRCs.

She continued: “The FRCs are ‘on fire’ and there is no more time for half measures.”

National leaders are calling on ICE to follow the ruling by a federal judge.

The judge’s order is aimed at the three FRCs in the U.S. Two are in Texas and one is in Pennsylvania. Unaccompanied minors in various shelters are also included in the order.

“Although progress has been made, the Court is not surprised that [COVID-19] has arrived at both the [Family Residential Centers] and [Office of Refugee Resettlement] facilities, as health professionals have warned all along,” Judge Gee wrote.

This story is developing and we will update as new information arises.

READ: After COVID-19 Shut Down Flights, A Man Sailed Across The Atlantic Ocean All So That He Could See His Dad

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ICE Detainees Are Leading A Hunger Strike In Solidarity With George Floyd And Black Lives Matter

Things That Matter

ICE Detainees Are Leading A Hunger Strike In Solidarity With George Floyd And Black Lives Matter

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Across the country (and, in fact, the globe) diverse communities are coming together to denounce racism, expose systemic inequality, and demand justice for Black lives which have been cut short.

The call for justice knows no borders – it doesn’t respect walls or fences. You need to look no further than migrant detention centers across the U.S., where some detainees have banded together in solidarity with George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter by conducting a hunger strike.

Immigrants in ICE’s detention facility have staged a hunger strike in solidarity with George Floyd.

Migrants paid tribute to George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement with a hunger strike at a California migrant detention center.

However, when ICE first announced the hunger strike at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield, Calif., on Friday, they tried to minimize the act of solidarity. In a statement, ICE alleged that detainees were being coerced — both internally and externally — into a hunger strike, and detainees reportedly said they were told that the purpose of the hunger strike was to protest the repetitive cycle of the menu. 

But according to new reports, the detainees began refusing meals as a show of solidarity for Floyd and the hundreds of other Black Americans killed by police. Even inside the detention center, news of Floyd’s murder – who died while being detained by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25 and whose death sparked protests against police brutality that continue across the nation – has angered detainees.

Many migrants in ICE custody are of African descent and identify with the growing calls for racial justice.

Credit: Oliver de Ros / Getty Images

Although many view the detained migrant populations as a monolith, there are several majority communities that are in detention – and the majority at several centers are of African descent. In fact, Black people from Cameroon, Mexico, Ghana, Haiti, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Brazil, and other countries, are held across ICE detention centers.

Our Prism reports, while undocumented Black immigrants represent about 7.2% of the U.S. population, in immigrant holding facilities (a statistic very similar to American prisons) people of African descent make up the majority of those detained.

Thus, those being held have a high sensitivity and support to the civil unrest that the rest of the country is participating in. In support, they have decided to protest.

Asif Qazi, a Bangladesh immigrant who has been in captivity since February, handed a guard a written statement about their strike.

We, the detained people of dormitories A, B, and C at Mesa Verde ICE Detention Facility, are protesting and on hunger strike in solidarity with the detained people at Otay Mesa Detention Center,” Qazi wrote.

“We begin our protest in memory of our comrades George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Oscar Grant, and Tony McDade. Almost all of us have also suffered through our country’s corrupt and racist criminal justice system before being pushed into the hands of ICE,” the statement read in part.

This recent hunger strike isn’t the first time migrants have stood up for their beliefs while in custody.

Just one week ago, several detainees at a Texas detention facility went on strike to protest the close conditions in a Covid-19 world. many expressed shock and concern over so many vulnerable people being crammed into tiny areas with little access to adequate healthcare.

Norma Herrera, a community organizer for the grassroots coalition Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, told CNN that one protester had missed 21 meals during a week-long hunger strike. She says he is protesting the cramped living conditions where he fears contracting coronavirus during this ongoing pandemic.

“They feel like there’s no way to protect themselves from the virus. They’re in really crowded dorms within feet of other people. They’re sharing tablets. They’re sharing phones. When they go out to recreation they share the same equipment and they’re sharing with the same people under quarantine,” Herrera said via phone with CNN. “So they feel there’s just no way to keep themselves safe.”

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