The Cross-Border Issues Group (CBIG) traveled to Central America this summer in its quest to gain a better understanding of the factors motivating outmigration from the region into Mexico and the United States.
While in Honduras, they stayed with host families in a village in the mountains above the nation's capital, Tegucigalpa. The arrangements were made with help from Shannon Reierson, lecturer in the College of Education's department of Language, Literature and Sociocultural Studies. Reierson works with teachers in the region.
Two charter flights per day depart from various airports in the U.S. to Mexico and Central America carrying 30-200 deportees. Many deportees were in the U.S. more than 15 years; others had been in the U.S. only months. Approximately 45 percent were deported after being caught committing serious crimes – everything from murder and drug dealing and trafficking to domestic violence. Others simply got caught in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement net.
"Most were in their late teens to 45 years of age. Their perspective, way of life, reflected an Americanization that included a life of relative comfort," Schaefer said.
He added, "Many said they would never return to the U.S., but not all of them. Most plan to stay in Honduras."
Deportees return with a small grocery box of possessions that included clothes, wallets, belts, an extra pair of shoes, and in many cases, overcoats and heavy sweaters from northern American cities, often discarded at the airport.
"A few nice items were wasted as a cadre of young preteen boys picked through the shoes and other winter outerwear out of the trash bins," Schaefer said.
Some deportees complained bitterly of being bound for hours on the plane, he said.
CBIG also visited albergues, or missions, in Tapachula, on the Mexico-Guatemala border, and Guatemala City, as well as an orphanage in Tegucigalpa. The large, crowded orphanage housed children left behind when parents head north. "Most got stopped at or were left at the border. Others didn't make it through Mexico," Schaefer said.
The group learned a lot about the human rights indignities migrants must face. "We also developed a greater understanding of the moral, political, social and economic dilemmas Mexico and the United States face when thousands of people are on the move and enter those countries illegally," Schaefer said.