Fact-Finding Mission Examines Conditions in Central America

Immigrant Rights, Race and Climate

A Closer Look: Fact-Finding Mission Examines Conditions in Central America

Fact-finding Delegation Documents Push and Pull Factors of Migration from Central America 

In response to recent migration trends, Centro Presente, Alianza Americas, GreenRoots, and Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) conducted a week-long fact-finding mission in August to witness and investigate the conditions in Central America. The delegation has now released a report outlining its findings along with recommendations for federal and local governments to be better equipped to address current migration patterns.

The report –– titled Fleeing Not Migrating: Crisis in Central America” ––is a snapshot of the conditions and observations that the delegation documented through visits with community leaders, human rights and environmental justice advocates, academics, researchers, legal scholars, and journalists in Honduras and Guatemala.

The alarming conditions outlined in the report are reconfirmed by the lived experience of migrants who reach the United States, including those who cross Central America and Mexico. Migrants report extremely dangerous conditions including extortion, kidnapping, sexual violence, and mutilation. For example, one of LCR’s clients was kidnapped and tortured. His teeth were removed with pliers. These harrowing conditions affect people living in — and traveling through — the region. 

In Honduras, the delegation met with:

  • Grupo Sociedad Civil (GSC)
  • Centro de Investigación y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CIPRODEH)
  • La Via Campesina 
  • Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH)
  • Casa Alianza

In Guatemala, the delegation met with:

  • Indigenous leader and academic Gladyz Tzul 
  • Human rights attorney Oswaldo Samayoa
  • Award-winning journalist Haroldo Sánchez 
  • Agencia Ocote
  • Asociación Pop No’j
  • Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO)

The report details the conditions that push many Central Americans to migrate to the United States: a toxic and fatal combination of violence, political persecution, extreme poverty, lack of economic opportunity, and most recently, the devastating effects of the climate crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The report is organized around seven major thematic areas: 

  • Forces of Migration
  • Economic Forces in Central America
  • Freedom of the Press
  • Corruption and Impunity 
  • Vulnerable Populations in Central America
  • Environmental Justice and Climate Change
  • U.S. Government Involvement and Responsibility 

The report also outlines recommendations and policy changes designed to strengthen U.S. immigration law and policy. “Global migration is a real issue. It cannot be overlooked, nor can we deter it. Instead, we must actively work to understand the complexities and nuances of migration to better serve those in our communities,” said Mirian Albert, Staff Attorney at Lawyers for Civil Rights.

“Widespread corruption and impunity continues to undermine public trust in the authorities and the justice system,” said Patricia Montes, Executive Director of Centro Presente.

“One of our principal findings is that people don’t want to abandon their countries of origin: they are being forced to flee because of a toxic mix of violence, impunity, back-sliding democratic practices, and climate change disasters,” said Oscar Chacón, Executive Director of Alianza Americas. “The U.S. government should tailor policy towards Central America that accounts for the new realities. At the very least, this should include expanding our limited existing humanitarian protection mechanisms, including TPS, to account for people displaced by climate change events, as well as other humanitarian protection challenges.”

“Officials, policymakers, lawyers, and community leaders should become more familiar with the root causes of migration to better understand why families, women, and children are forced to flee their homes. This is especially useful to better serve the growing Central American and immigrant population in the United States,” said Hazel Contreras, Coordinator for Central America at Alianza Americas.

“As an environmental justice organization based in an immigrant community, we know that transnational solidarity and the understanding of the root causes of migration are not only critical but necessary in order to address systems of oppression,” said Maria Belen Power, Associate Executive Director of GreenRoots. “The struggle for land sovereignty, protection of our natural resources and forced migration are tightly bound.”

“Central American migrants do not leave their home country willingly. The real reasons that push so many Hondurans and Guatemalans to flee are the entrenched inequities, extreme food insecurity, alarming femicide rates, and the erosion of democracy across Central America,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights. “We must ensure that we have the appropriate mechanisms in place to address this humanitarian crisis.”

The report is available here: http://lawyersforcivilrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Final-Delegation-Report-for-Public-Release.pdf

Please cite this report as: “Fleeing Not Migrating: Crisis in Central America,” Lawyers For Civil Rights, Alianza Americas, Centro Presente & GreenRoots (Oct. 2022).