Monday, May 15, 2017

Spread the word: Our Guatemalan community in the City of Lake Worth needs help.

Below is a sobering blog post from yesterday, titled “Teaching English or Spanish to Guatemalan migrants: Need a solution for a very big problem.”

Many of you, like myself, probably thought teaching English and Spanish to migrants from Guatemala was a top priority by many of the nonprofits and volunteer organizations here in the City of Lake Worth. Apparently, according to a news report in the Miami Herald (excerpts below), that is not the case. Imagine even the basics, like interacting with a PBSO deputy or seeking help in a medical emergency, is nearly impossible for so many in our City. Wouldn’t that be contributing to the climate of fear?

Now we learn in the Miami Herald, very sad news, that Guatemalan migrants are being taken advantage of by lawyers, landlords, and others ostensibly here to help these people.

There has to be an organization or group in the City of Lake Worth that can help Guatemalan migrants — especially those who cannot speak Spanish — to learn basic language skills. The big problem is language. Those who know Spanish have a big advantage; those who “speak only Maya languages like Quiché, Kanjobal, Poptí’ or Mam” have a huge disadvantage and are especially vulnerable to predatory lawyers and substandard rental property owners.

However, it’s very important to note the article by Francisco Rodríguez* in a “Special to the Miami Herald makes a glaring error that needs to be corrected. There are not 50,000 Guatemalan migrants “in Lake Worth”.

The City of Lake Worth is only 6 square miles and the recent population estimates are 38,000–40,000 residents. From Wikipedia:

“Lake Worth had the twentieth highest percentage of Guatemalan residents in the US, with 4.87% of the populace. . . . the three most spoken first languages in Lake Worth were English at 56.61%, Spanish at 26.57%, and French Creole which was spoken by 9.17% of the population.”

The reporter is including Guatemalans that live outside the City in his misreported population number: Guatemalan people living in Suburban Lake Worth (unincorporated Palm Beach County), the Lake Worth Corridor, and probably other cities as well (Palm Springs, Greenacres, Lantana, etc.).

From a blog post last April about the Guatemalan Maya Center (GMC) and the opening of the new Guatemalan consulate was this news from Peter Haden at WLRN:

“Officials estimate more than 55,000 Guatemalans live in the county [Palm Beach County]. . . . ‘We’re going to see cultural, commercial, economic affairs — in order to have a more intense and big link with Palm Beach County,’ said De Mora [Miami Consul General Rosa Maria Merida De Mora].”

Hopefully, the Miami Herald will correct this false information. Here are two excerpts from the article:

     By train [Tri-Rail], the roundtrip ride costs $22. But out of fear, not knowing the area and not speaking English — sometimes neither Spanish — many Guatemalan migrants hire drivers in the community who charge as much as $350 to take them to immigration appointments in Miramar in Broward County or other meetings in Miami-Dade, wait for them and return home.
     The Guatemalan Maya Center, which helps migrants in the Lake Worth area, has documented many cases of gouging. The Guatemalan consulate, which recently opened an office in Lake Worth in Palm Beach County, also confirmed that drivers are charging between $150 and $300 for the trips.

and. . .

     But Consul Mario Azmitia said that the consulate so far has not assisted any Guatemalans who do not speak Spanish. Plans are underway to hire at least one person who speaks Kanjobal, one of the more dominant Maya languages.
     He added that the consulate for now is focused on making its presence known, and has not tackled ways to help the migrants avoid the exorbitant costs of transportation and other fees.

Spread the word to everyone in the Guatemalan community here in our City:
“Estamos en la aperatura de un consulado de Guatemala en Lake Worth! Gracias por este apoyo para nuestras familias que antes pagaban $300 para llegar al consulado en Miami.”

Read more here:
Translation: “We are at the opening of a Guatemalan Consulate in Lake Worth! Thank you for this support for our families, that before had to pay $300 to get to the consulate in Miami.”

*Francisco Rodríguez is an investigative journalist with elPeriódico in Guatemala, is in Miami as a fellow with the D.C.-based International Center for Journalists (ICFJ).