Immigration & Refugees

Activists call on Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas to support bill to improve human rights in Honduras

Protesters called on Rep. Kevin Yoder, seen here speaking on election night with wife Brooke, to help a family seeking asylum.
Protesters called on Rep. Kevin Yoder, seen here speaking on election night with wife Brooke, to help a family seeking asylum. KansasCity

A protest outside of U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder’s Overland Park office on Thursday was aimed at helping the case of an Honduran woman and her children as they seek asylum.

Cross Border Network, a nonprofit organization that advocates for working people around the world, organized the protest. The group focuses on human rights in Honduras.

Judy Ancel, Cross Border president, said Honduran Mercedes Zelaya Mendoza and her four children fled the country in August because the Honduran government couldn’t provide protection from death threats.

She said her husband, Nelson Garcia, was gunned down on March 15, 2016, in front of Mendoza and two of their children because of the family’s advocacy work for poor farmers.

The family, Ancel said, will live with her while they appeal for asylum in the United States.

“It’s been tough,” Mendoza said through an interpreter.

Cross Border Network helped arrange a meeting Thursday between Mendoza and members of Yoder’s staff. In a statement, Yoder said he would try to help the family.

“My staff met with Mercedes Zelaya and her children today and will be doing everything we can to help them with their application seeking asylum as political refugees,” he said.

The protest marked the first anniversary of the deaths of Garcia and Berta Caceres, a world-renowned environmental leader in Honduras killed March 3, 2016.

According to Ancel, a recent report by a human rights group notes the U.S. provides Honduras tens of millions of dollars in aid directed to the police and military, both of which are heavily implicated in violence against land and environmental activists.

A bill filed in March by Democratic U.S. Rep Hank Johnson of Georgia reintroduced the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act. The bill calls for the suspension of all U.S. funding to Honduran police or military forces until human rights violations cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice.

About two dozen protesters called on Yoder, a Republican, to help co-sponsor the bill.

A spokesman for Yoder did not reply to a question about the bill.

Toriano Porter: 816-234-4779, @torianoporter

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