I am drawn to big problems and trying to find solutions to those problems. When seeking solutions, I try to focus on the cause rather than on the symptoms of the problem. During my service trip to Nicaragua this past summer, I had an opportunity to live with locals where I helped build a preschool. Being there, I came to understand more about the circumstances that actually lead to the decision to migrate to the U.S. and why people choose to leave their homes and families. This is also a problem for all of us. According to the US Homeland Security there are over 11 million immigrants in the US from central and South America. I realized that the proposed solutions we often hear from our politicians, on either side, do not address the cause behind the need for migration. This makes me want to speak up and get involved.
This country was founded out of the need of many people seeking a better life, usually in face of severe circumstances. The phenomenon of migration can be seen across nearly all forms of life where species have to relocate simply in order to survive. The majority of us come from an immigration background in one way or another with family fleeing lives that, may not seem sustainable. So then, why now, as new immigrants are trying to come to the US from Latin America seeking the same opportunities that our families once sought, are we not focused on the threats that are fueling their need to relocate? Many gangs rule the streets and terrorize the locals into giving them money or forcing their kids into the gangs. According to the interview I had with Maria Lepure “The Mexican government is controlled by the Cartels.” According to an article by Jason Breslow between 2007 and 2014 more than 164,000 people were victims of homicide. According to that same article this period of time was a period that accounts for some of the bloodiest years of the nation’s war against the drug cartels. Even when not in direct danger, those in poverty face a threat of a different kind. I lived in a rural village in Nicaragua in a home with a dirt floor, no running water and just barely enough to meet daily needs. My host family was able to get by, but others were not. And when they don’t have enough, they often make the very difficult decision to leave. This was also shown in the book Enrique’s Journey By Sonia Nazario. In the book she says that Enrique would get beat up by the gangs because he didn’t want to join and because he would wear stuff from the US. This means sacrificing their close ties with family and friends, risking their lives and gambling with the little bit of money they do have to try to make a successful trip to the US where hopefully they will be able to start helping their family meet their needs. The reality of life for many people in Latin America is one of just barely surviving. Those who migrate north can see that if they were to stay, their survival is in question. People who are leaving these situations are truly desperate And when you are desperate you are willing to take risks and make sacrifices, some of which our own families made long ago but which, it seems, have been forgotten.
The question is, if the number of immigrants entering the US from Latin America is a problem, as many argue that it is, then what can be done to fix this? Some propose closing the borders, creating greater barriers to illegal immigration or even building a wall to prevent them from entering. How will such barriers lessen the need for them to relocate? A wall will not make them less hungry or safer? Others, often those on the other side of the political spectrum, propose to give those who have already entered illegally a “path to citizenship.” How would that, however, affect the need for people to continue to leave? Central America Is like a building on fire and people are jumping for their lives, taking great risk and making huge sacrifices to save themselves and their families. . The US government unfortunately isn’t trying to put the fire out. In fact, putting out the “fire” doesn’t even seem to be a part of the conversation about illegal immigration, no matter which side is discussing it. Why is that? Is it because the US benefits from cheap labor from Central Americans and we actually need some of these illegal immigrants? Or, is it perhaps that it simply is not possible for the US to boost the economies of the countries from where the immigrants are coming? I don’t know the answer to those questions. What I do know is that if there is going to be an answer that truly slows illegal immigration, we must find a way to eliminate what is driving people to leave, whether it be crime, violence or poverty. It is a big problem that must be addressed in a variety of ways.
Breslow, Jason M. “FRONTLINE.” PBS. PBS, 27 July 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.
Krogstad, Jens Manuel, and Jeffrey S. Passel. “5 Facts about Illegal Immigration in the U.S.” Pew qwerasdfzResearch Center RSS. PewResearch Center, 19 Nov. 2015. Web. 28 Dec. 2015.
Lepure, Maria. “Immigration Story.” Personal interview. 23 Nov. 2-15.
Nazario, Sonia. Enrique’s Journey. New York: Random House, 2006. Print.
United States. Department of Homeland Security. Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2013. qwerasdfzWashington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics, qwerasdfz2014.