There is a crisis in the Americas. It is publicized in the media, but looks different from our viewpoint in Guatemala than it does north of the Mexican border. There is an exodus of people from Central America to the United States and it is increasing. I am not a social scientist, nor an expert in international development, but I have some thoughts I would like to share.
As quoted in a recent article in the Washington Post:
“Since October, 52,000 unaccompanied minors and 39,000 adults with children have been apprehended along the Mexican border — a much higher proportion than normal.”
Although the crime rate has dropped here, there are still 15 murders a day, mainly in Guatemala City. Familial violence is common and the poverty rate is 50% of the population and there is no improvement in sight. The education system has been all but abandoned by the government and the population knows corruption is rampant. With all this facing the young people of this small nation, wouldn’t you flee such a harsh and hopeless landscape despite the dangerous passage?
The key to stopping the hemorrhage of immigrants to the United States is to assist Central America rise out of the past decades of the devastating war and ongoing corruption. Begin at the top to stop the systemic corruption and also initiate grass roots programs to improve education and employment opportunities. Guatemala does not need military aid it needs a functional school system to offer opportunities to its youth.
Guatemala’s social, economic and cultural development was interrupted in 1954 by disastrous political interference and now there needs to be some social and economic intervention to repair the damage caused 60 years ago. No cement wall on a border will cure what ails the immigration crisis in the US. It will take intelligent diplomacy that is motivated by humanitarianism, not greed or protectionism. It would be much more cost effective to help Guatemala than apprehending and processing all the illegals (367,000 in 2013) that have to be deported from the US every year.
Everyday we see the real life consequences of failed policies in a population of millions struggling just to survive. Uneducated and underemployed, they are still resilient, looking for a better life for their families. Ready to learn, adapt and move forward, they will do what is necessary to find that better life. If not given a humanitarian hand up by their government and the international community, they will continue to migrate north in hope, and perhaps in delusion, to make a better life for their families.
PS – for an insight into the incredibly dangerous journey of migrants to the US, watch the excellent documentary, Which Way Home.