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President Obama has honored online journal Guardian Liberty Voice (GLV) writer Fern Remedi-Brown with a letter recognizing her investigative journalism regarding the children fleeing Central America. The letter (below) was written 12 weeks after her two articles on the topic were published in GLV, which has seven million unique users per month and nine million page views per month.
At a time when global media attention is being focused on journalists and the struggles they face, the letter was a testimony. It gave significant recognition to the work of reporters and also reflects the tremendous pressure that the U.S. is facing with the influx of children from Central America.
The White House had written its message thoughtfully, reflecting the challenges that the U.S. faces and the lack of options causing the poor to flee Central America. The countries where the children are coming from – Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua – all have gross domestic products (GDP) of less than $3,750 per year, per capita (per person).
These countries suffered long-term armed conflicts in which thousands of indigenous were victims and left many of the survivors impoverished and beholden to land owners. It also supplied weapons to the region and established a culture of violence.
As described in the articles referenced below, the violence cycled back to the U.S. in the form of undocumented immigrants who lived in slums that were becoming consumed by gangs in this country. When the youth are deported back to Central America, the gangs replicate themselves in the region.
Children who leave do so to escape violence as much as for reasons of poverty. Those who are deported say that they will try again to come to the U.S. By July perhaps 90,000 youth had come to the U.S. unaccompanied. The danger to the children as well as the potential perpetuation of violence in the U.S. make this a humanitarian crisis of extraordinary proportion.
In his letter, President Obama acknowledged his deep concerns about the unaccompanied children arriving in the U.S. He shared the author’s view of the urgent humanitarian crisis facing the U.S. and Central America. Moreover, the President stressed the need to “drop the politics” in order to address the problem at its root, without delay, and “for good.”
The letter mentioned the necessity for adequate facilities on both sides of the border so that children’s health and wellbeing is not compromised while the government seeks a long-term solution. Addressing the long-term nature of the problem, the President spoke of working with leaders of Central American nations to alert them to the dangers inherent in such travel to seek their assistance in curtailing it. President Obama also stressed the moral and legal obligations of the United States to use utmost care and compassion with unattended minors while they are in the custody of the U.S. government.
It is uncommon for a journalist to receive direct recognition from a sitting president in response to a published story. That acknowledgement is not taken lightly and is accepted as a testimony for the efforts of all investigative reporters worldwide, for the work done that brings to light critical issues.
In his letter, President Obama expresses his sincere concern for resolving the problem of influx of unprecedented numbers of undocumented children immigrants. He acknowledges that the situation must be resolved as quickly as possible without unnecessary political posturing.
In 2014, President Obama requested $3.7 billion in emergency aid for Central American children fleeing alone to this country, an amount which represents only “a tiny fraction” of the need. Rather than reaching a deal prior to their August 2014 recess, Republicans called for all funds to be frozen to Central America. U.S. lawmakers had a stalemate:
The first block is a 1996 U.S. law requiring that undocumented persons found guilty of crimes that carry a one-year prison sentence would be deported. Even if the sentence were later suspended, the deportation went through.
The second is a 2008 law to address human trafficking. This law has increased the difficulty of quickly returning Central American children to their home countries. Republicans want this law changed and refuse to support new legislation because the 2008 law does not allow for expedited deportation of young migrants. Democrats want to keep the protective law on the books and are therefore hesitant to vote for legislation that removes it. They say that removal of the law could hurt children who are fleeing dangerous situations in their home countries.
The acknowledgement of the White House for the issue underscores its importance in Washington and for the nation. At the same time, the recognition bestowed by President Obama is a tribute to all of GLV and to the entire profession of journalism.
By DiMarkco Chandler