Californian democrats recently announced that they were going to send a delegation to Central America in order to get a better understanding of the region and resolve border issues. The group of legislators includes members of the Latin America Legislative Caucus as well as State Senator Darrell Steinberg is set to visit El Salvador, Panama and Guatemala. Although they claim that the trip was planned months before the recent youth immigration crisis, in which thousands of underage children have attempted to smuggle themselves across the Mexican-American Border, they did say that the border crisis has made their trip much more relevant.
The group of six is set to meet with President Salvador Sanchez Ceren of El Salvador, the vice-minister of Foreign Affairs for Guatemala Oscar Padilla Lam, then finish their trip off by visiting with Panamanian officials who are current attempting to increase the width of the Panama Canal. The lawmakers from California decided to make the voyage in order to obtain a better understanding of the situations that exist within the borders of some of Central America’s poorest and most desperate countries.
They also plan on discussing what border states like California “can do to meet the humanitarian challenges” created by the mass emigration of children from their often violent homes in Central America. The excursion is set to begin on July 14 and end on the 23, giving the lawmakers a little over a week to ponder possible solutions to their own border crisis as well as the similar crises which have emerged in other south western states such as Texas.
So far the governments of the nations which are home to a majority of the children caught by California’s border patrol officials a list of which includes not only Guatemala and El Salvador, but also Mexico and Honduras have been quite stand-offish towards national government officials. For instance, this past June the Obama administration sent Vice-President Biden down through California into Central America in order to help host a conference so that he could meet and begin delegating with the leaders of Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador.
He likely hoped that his actions would start to build a consensus regarding various regional issues affecting all of the nations involved in the border crisis but turned out to be horrifically wrong. During the talks, Mexico dodged blame for immigration crisis by stating that the issue one of “shared responsibility” meaning that their government is not willing to help the US deport more of its citizens, a policy which the Mexican government has long denounced.
Meanwhile other countries whose children are making the trip to the border in droves, such as Honduras, completely rebuked the whole affair. Recent international quarrels between the two nations relating to the international drug war seem to have put an exception strain on their current relationship. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández skipped the meeting with Mr. Biden entirely, apparently believing that nothing more could be gained through further dialogue with their northern ally.
The cold treatment given to Vice-President Biden by Central America’s leaders does not however, mean the delegation from California, which was sent by their fellow representatives to resolve the border issue, are doomed to failure. By approaching the situation as humble fact finders, a group of Americans, many of whom are descendants of Latino immigrants, who have been sent to simply listen rather than tell Central America’s leaders about their problems, then they just might be able help defrost the relationship between the United States and Central America. They may not be able to develop a workable solution to the border crisis just by spending a week flying around the region but California’s representatives will certainly obtain a unique perspective on those nations’ own crises, what they need to resolve them, and how their own state could possibly help.
By Andrew Waddell