The Mothers of Disappeared Migrants Search for Justice
The ARD was humbled to speak with Ángela Lacayo from the Relatives of Disappeared Migrant People Committee Love and Faith (Comité de Familiares de Migrantes Desaparecidos Amor y Fe, COFAMIDEAF) and the Central American Mothers Caravan. Angela’s son, Jarvin Josué Velázquez Lacayo, disappeared years ago on U.S. soil while migrating from their home in Honduras.
Thousands of Central American migrants have been disappeared in the United States or Mexico. These mothers seek the repatriation of their children, whether alive or deceased, and justice for future migrants. Migrants disappear thanks to the U.S. enforcing brutal immigration policies on its own territory and pressuring the Mexican government to do the same. And as Angela points out, U.S. policies likewise create the conditions in Central America that force migrants to the United States in order to sustain their families. This author believes that U.S. citizens, as beneficiaries of these policies, therefore bear a particular responsibility to support the mothers of the disappeared.
This interview was conducted in Spanish and has been condensed for clarity and length.
• Support COFAMIDEAF, the Relatives of Disappeared Migrant People Committee Love and Faith. Donations provide direct support to families who have lost loved ones migrating to the United States.
• Oppose any legislation or policy that would limit the ability of people to live, work, and love where they please.
Q: Why do migrants come to the U.S. from Central American countries to seek the American dream?
People don’t come to the U.S. for the American dream. They come because of poverty, because of gangs, because of governments that aren’t trying to ensure that people can have a dignified life in their country without emigrating. It’s organized crime, border militarization, the militaries that kill their own citizens.
In my neighborhood in Tegucigalpa, there are no young people. The young people have all emigrated or been killed. There is neither equity nor equality; the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and poor people lack access to so many things. We can’t give our children or grandchildren the life we’d like them to have.
Q: Why are you part of the Central American Mother’s Caravan traveling the United States?
I’m here in the U.S. for justice. I’m here to push for immigration reform and build support for migrants. And I’m here to ask for help in the search for our disappeared family members in the desert and for help with the repatriation of their remains. I am here so they listen to our voices and hear our roar.
I’m from Honduras but I’m with an organization that represents all migrants. Some migrants were lost in Mexico but others were lost in U.S. territory — that’s why we’re here. My son was lost along the border, not in Mexico but the U.S. In our last call, he told me, “I’m going to cross the border.”
I’m looking for my son because I love him. It’s a tireless struggle, but we’re going to raise our voices until we’re listened to. It’s a real pleasure for us to talk to young people at universities, because they’ll be able to make changes in the future.
Q: Does the U.S. play a role in creating the conditions in Honduras that push people to migrate?
Yes. Of course. It has a really important role because it sends money to our governments. The U.S. sends money to our countries, but in order to reinforce the police and the military. It sends money to put up borders and cut off people’s hopes for a better future. At the very least, the U.S. should hold them accountable and know what these governments do with that money.
People are disappeared in Honduras, too. They’re disappeared because of any one of those forms of militarization: the police, armed forces, and the gangs.
Q: What can people in the United States do to help?
I represent the Comité de Familiares de Migrantes Desaparecidos Amor y Fe. COFAMIDEAF accepts donations which are stewarded by our Executive Board and directed towards the families of disappeared migrants. During COVID, COFAMIDEAF is distributing Solidarity Bags of food, medicine, and emergency aid.
This country and its inhabitants could make life better for everyone around the world. U.S. citizens can join organizations fighting against poverty and join the struggle to improve the world. They can fight for immigration law reform and against border militarization and borders and walls. These walls divide countries that are connected by human beings. Human beings with hearts that feel. Human beings who simply want a better life for their families.
We all suffer in different ways. Some suffer more than others. Open your hearts, be in solidarity, and don’t be indifferent to another person’s pain.
KEY TAKEAWAYS • Untold numbers of migrants have been disappeared in the United States and Mexico.
• Their remains are not repatriated to their families, who are unable to confirm if they are alive or dead. Some search for disappeared family members for years.
• The U.S. government is responsible for those disappeared on its territory, but it also plays a key role in creating the violence and poverty in Central American countries that pushes people to the United States.