News & Politics

For Latin American 'Migrants' in the Motherland, No Joy

Bienvenido a España: World Refugee Day in Madrid (AP Photo/Andrea Comas)

So maybe if this El Norte thing doesn’t work out, there’s always Spain, right? Wrong:

Migrants from Central America are turning to former colonial master Spain as they face rejection from the United States in their attempts to escape rampant violence and poverty at home, but the streets of Madrid offer little relief. After selling all they have to pay for flights to Europe, the migrants often end up sleeping on the streets or in doorways, without warm clothes, food or cash.

“Our baby is just two months old and we’ve run out of money … we don’t have anywhere to stay right now,” said 40-year-old Salvadoran Nelson Delgado as he queued for the third day and night with his wife and baby outside the only migrant center in Madrid. “It’s OK if I don’t get any benefits, just something for them to have a better future,” he said, choking on tears.

And whose fault is this? All together now:

The number of asylum-seekers from Central America and Venezuela has grown notably in the past month after U.S. President Donald Trump denounced U.S.-bound migrant caravans as an “invasion” and sent troops to the border with Mexico to stop them. But their hopes of better treatment are falling flat in Spain, which along with other European countries is already overwhelmed by a wave of migrants from north Africa and the Middle East.

Delgado, a former bus driver, says he and his wife fled their home town of Ahuchapan on the border with Guatemala after he was briefly kidnapped and then faced threats by a criminal gang in another town where they tried to settle. They decided to emigrate together with another family.

“There was a migrant caravan to the United States … but we didn’t (join in). We were afraid they could deport us back to El Salvador or even separate us from our baby boy,” said Delgado.

Lawlessness at home is a problem for the Salvadoreans and others to sort out, not the Americans. But the migration is also a testament to how badly the Spanish failed in their attempt to exploit, rather than settle, their chunk of the New World, and how much better the stable democracy in the United States, with its origins in British law, has proven to be, as opposed to the Spanish caudillo system in which a handful of grandees ruled over a large, mostly native, peasantry.

A parish church ended up accepting Delgado and his kin. It is already providing shelter to five other families from central America. Among them is Jonathan Martinez of Venezuela and his three children who had to sleep in a doorway after a social services center kicked them out when it had no space. The local priest, Javier Baeza, blamed the government for barring access to humanitarian programs for migrants. “These people need to be helped, it’s a human right,” he said.

It may be a human right — it’s certainly a Christian obligation, which is why the church was right to take them in — but is it the government’s job? Successful Western governments need to figure this out right quick.