By: Gloria Orellana
Jennifer Carcamo of the Human Rights Alliance for Child Refugees and Families, and Steven Osuna, PhD Professor of Sociology at California State University Long Beach, initiated the assembly with a powerpoint on Thursday from noon to 1:00 p.m. in the Vincent Price Art Museum.
Students interested in the human rights for Central American asylum seekers had the opportunity to learn more at a lecture hosted by the activist themselves.
“These two countries specifically El Salvador and Guatemala both had severe civil wars with thousands of people disappearing or being murdered,” Osuna said.
Osuna said their mission is to help refugees, mainly from El Salvador and Guatemala, who are leaving their countries due to forced migration as a result of United States political and economic policies.
According to Osuna these people are not leaving their country because they want to, they are leaving because they have to, in order to feel some type of safety.
Steven said the first exodus occurred because of the war, it started in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and it has continued on since then.
The second exodus of migrants and refugees was in 1992 for El Salvador and 1994 for Guatemala.
Migration still continues today because of gang related activities involving the most dangerous gang in El Salvador, MS-13.
However this has impacted the free trade in Central America causing larger corporate control, loss of agriculture occupations, and country dislocation.
“There was United States involvement in the way the country was being developed at the time,” Osuna said.
The Human Rights Alliance for Child Refugees and Families was founded in July of 2014. Their mission is to uplift and defend the human rights of refugees and migrants, especially women, children and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
Carcamo has been a member of that alliance since January of 2015 and has helped and met many Central American migrants.
“Most of the families that we have met were families that literally came to the U.S. and turned themselves in the asylum, they ask for asylum because they fear for their lives to go back to their country,” Carcamo said.
Carcamo’s family is also from El Salvador. “My dad also fled El Salvador and came to U.S. in 1979, and my mother came after, in 1985,” Carcamo said.
After families who leave their native country,come and ask for asylum, they are placed in detention centers alongside their children.
Carcamo said in the process of being held in custody, they were treated as if they were in jail.
They were desperate to be freed and the only way they knew they were going to get some sort of attention was by doing a hunger strike.
The mothers held in the centers wrote letters to the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement demanding freedom. There were two hunger strikes the first one was in May of 2015 which lasted for a week.
While in the process, mothers were threatened by officials who threatened that their children would be taken from them due to negligence. Officials claimed that their children were not being properly fed.
The second hunger strike was in June of that same year, it lasted 24 hours. It resulted in freedom of a few, but with the condition of having an ankle bracelet attached to them. That way, Immigration and Customs Enforcement can keep track of them at all times.
“We obviously thought that was inhuman, that should not exist, although they were given their freedom, that was violating their constitutional rights,” Carcamo said.
Children would threaten officials with committing suicide if they were not let out. They were tired of being detained like they were criminals.
“We would go to the detention centers and talk to them, hear them out and hear their stories,” Carcamo said.
Osuna and Carcamo are still working daily to improve, this and help many migrants who still don’t know their rights and hope that in the future this will end.