- Terelle Jerricks
Political refugee talks about his escape from Honduran death squads to detention centers in the United States
By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor
It wasn’t the coronavirus grabbing the headlines a year ago, but Donald Trump’s warnings about the caravans coming from Central America. His wild accusations and false claims about immigrants caused alarm and outrage. Children were separated from their parents; some were not reunified with their families; some died in custody of U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement; others died crossing the border.
Among those approaching the southern border of the United States were people desperately fleeing the harsh violence of Honduras ― violence in many cases traceable to to U.S. policies in that country ― and hoping to be granted asylum. Miguel Angel Girón Martínez was one of them ― one of the lucky ones. After a harrowing journey over thousands of miles, he made it to the border and told his story to U.S. officials, who have heard it all ― two or three times ― he actually was granted political asylum, ending up in the San Pedro Harbor Area.
The End Becomes the Beginning at San Pedro United Methodist Church
When Random Lengths News crossed paths with him. Miguel Angel Girón Martínez was one of five featured speakers at a panel discussion that the San Pedro United Methodist Church hosted at the end of February. The event’s moderator and translator was Rachel Bruhnke, a local activist who on this occasion was representing Witness for Peace Southwest. The issue Bruhnke presented to the panelists: “Why caravans of Central Americans are coming to the United States.”
It was a surreal, almost miraculous moment for Girón Martínez ― not just the danger he escaped in Honduras, the life-threatening threats he faced during his journey and the fact he had a speaking engagement in a Harbor Area church. Girón Martínez had also evaded the best efforts of PresidentTrump to limit political asylum and migration to the United States, legal or otherwise
Trump and his team have applied a wide range of strategies, including:
- Speeding up the removal of thousands of migrants without allowing them federal court hearings;
- Pressuring Mexico to police its southern border with Central America;
- Forcing asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while waiting for an immigration hearing.
When it was his turn to speak, Girón Martínez recounted Honduras’ recent history, starting with the election of Manuel Zalaya Rosales to the presidency in 2007.
“Our president promised he would invest in housing, land reform and helping young people, students and the elderly,” Girón Martínez said.
Girón Martínez said for the first time Honduras had a president who was for the people after so long with politicians who paid lip service to helping the people. But the rich don’t like the president putting food on the table of the poor; there was a coup d’etat in 2009 and President Zelaya Rosales was exiled to Costa Rica.
“The coup was initiated by American international corporations, the military and the American embassy,” Girón Martínez said. “The people in the streets erupted in protest.”
In 2011, Zelaya returned to Honduras and the political party. Libre was formed.
“Today, it is the largest political party in Honduras,” Girón Martínez said. “In 2012 and 2017, Honduran elections were rigged. Each time, the favored candidate would be up in the polls then the government would suspend counting the votes.”
Girón Martínez likened the Democratic Caucus debacle in Iowa to what happened to Manuel Zelaya Rosales in Honduras. The voting would start and the more popular candidate would start winning then the vote would stop but the least popular candidate would win.
“When the vote was suspended again in 2017, we just took to the streets,” Girón Martínez explained. “I was threatened by the military, me and four other friends (there were five of us) were pulled aside, and were told they would kill us.”
Girón Martínez said he approached human rights organizations for help.
“It wasn’t as if we could go to the police ― the police are a part of the government,” Girón Martínez said. “They work together. … Two of my friends have been murdered. Ángel Sánchez and the other is Mario. The death squads followed through on their threats and killed them. Cars, brand new cars, would appear without license plates wherever I was.”
Please read From Honduras to American ― The Beginning of the Story on March 12 in which Random Lengths News go into detail how why Miguel Angel Girón Martínez became an activist and the circumstance led him to go into hiding and eventually fleeing from his homeland.