The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AmericanActionNews.com
There is a great immigration crisis happening in the United States. We haven’t had much of a crisis over the past few years, especially since the borders were locked down due to COVID-19 for nearly all of 2020. However, the overwhelming number of migrants that have been trying to cross the U.S. border in recent weeks and months is quite alarming.
While Americans have every right to be concerned, I think that it’s also important for America First patriots to be careful with rhetoric, especially as it concerns the migrants themselves. The reason so many millions of people want to come to the United States each year is a testament to how great our country is. We have more freedom and more economic opportunity than perhaps anywhere in the world. And, for those who are living in impoverished, dangerous, and less free places just south of our borders in Central America, the United States is a beacon of hope that they are willing to risk their lives to live in.
While conservatives are understandably frustrated by the Biden Administration’s policies which seem to have just opened the borders, we should be careful not to direct our anger at the migrants themselves. In fact, we should not only sympathize with the migrants but find them our allies. After all, if we don’t act as friends with our closest neighbors, nations like China and Russia will fill that vacuum and turn our own neighborhood against us.
The bigger questions we should be asking are: How can the United States lend a hand to our friends and neighbors in Central America? How can we help them improve the conditions in their country so that less people will want to come across our border, especially in such dramatic numbers?
I have been living in Guatemala for the past month and plan to be here for the rest of the year. Since coming here, I have learned of so many U.S.-based charitable organizations, churches, and other philanthropic individuals who are doing their part to improve the situation of Guatemalans who live in poverty.
Last week, I met with Brady Greene, the CEO of Vine International. He is around my age and spent about a year or so living here nearly twenty years ago. He fell in love with the country and the people and wanted to dedicate the rest of his life to helping them. While he is based in Knoxville, Tennessee, he visits Guatemala about once a quarter (in normal times). Vine International partners with local doctors and others to bring donated medical equipment to those who need it most.
One of the things they did during their visit last week was to bring an ultrasound machine to a women’s clinic. They said years ago, an ultrasound machine was so big it would have had to be transported by truck or ship. Today, it’s as small as a smartphone. They also brought down an iPad so when the women are getting an ultrasound with the small device, they can see the image of their baby on the iPad screen. Brady said it was amazing to see people who have very little access to any of the technology we are used to seeing this kind of image of their child for the first time. And this only cost a few thousand dollars compared to the tens of thousands of dollars it would have cost years ago. In the U.S., we almost take for granted the pre-natal care most mothers can easily get and how to best provide a healthy environment for their baby during fetal development. Most Guatemalans don’t have that luxury.
After a connection that was made by a mutual friend, I also had a video call this past week with Mike Mannina, the CEO of ThriveWorx. Mike is based in Atlanta and works on both the nonprofit and for-profit sides of his enterprise, with a mission of disrupting poverty in Central America and are working to make it scalable in other parts of the world as well. One of the things they do is work to establish relationships between native coffee farmers in countries like Guatemala and Costa Rica, among others, and U.S. corporations like Chick-Fil-A, among others.
There is a huge wealth disparity here in Guatemala, with a very small middle class. You have a handful of families that control much of the economy and many parts of the country where so many live on so little. ThiveWorx jumps into the middle of many of these relationships to ensure coffee farmers throughout the country are receiving equitable opportunities so their much smaller enterprises can thrive and not be taken advantage of by larger interests. Mike told me they have even found really great receptive partners among some of those wealthier families here who are committed to greater opportunities for more Guatemalans.
Nearly two weeks ago, I met an English teacher here named Hector, an indigenous man who works in a small village about a 90-minute drive outside Guatemala City. He was in the city for a dental visit, which he hasn’t had in almost two years. During normal times, he is paid about the equivalent of $260 a month. During the past year, because of COVID, he has been paid less than $100 a month.
Hector was fortunate to have lived four years in the United States and only came to our country because a successful American businessman paid for his education and living expenses, including an opportunity to learn English at a community college in Cleveland, Ohio in the 1980s. He loves Americans and spent two hours with me walking the streets of Guatemala City and sitting down for a cup of coffee in a local coffee shop – a luxury for someone like him. Hector could have stayed in the United States, but his parents and siblings were here in Guatemala and he wanted to come back to be with them. Twenty years ago, he was given an opportunity to teach English. Despite the fact he makes very little in pay, he reminded me that Nelson Mandela once said that the way to change the world is through education and so he feels like helping poor children in his small village learn English is his way of doing just that. If a poor man like Hector can see a need to help his even more impoverished neighbors, what is stopping us?
Guatemalans are naturally friendly to Americans but when they hear the harsh rhetoric of U.S. politicians and pundits, it makes them squeamish, as it would make any of us if we heard someone talking about us that way. I know when Guatemalans have the opportunity to meet Americans like Brady Greene, Mike Mannina, and others like them – they have positive vibes while they are also uplifted through generous private philanthropy and the opportunity to stand on their own feet.
We need to find a way to make sure our immigration laws are enforced and that our border remains secure. But we also must not forget that our friends and neighbors in Central America should feel our love as well.