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How Immigration is Destroying Central and South America (And how it is working to destroy us too)

As our country continues to navigate the issue of immigration and political asylum, I quietly sat on the sideline until earlier this week. Not because I don't have an opinion. But because of the inevitable backlash that I have watched occur with others who share a viewpoint that differs from the passionate counter-veiw point. The media-fueled frenzy of half-truths and utter lies make for prime time ratings that soar and click-bait headlines that are spread across social media, feeding heated debates between family and friends. Little of what we are seeing is the full truth and because MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News said it, it must be so. The issue has pitted friends and neighbors against one other. It has become a war of Right vs. Left, Republican vs. Democrat, and if you are not on the side of "catch and release" and/or children remaining with the adults they came with (whether they are the parents or not) you lack compassion and respect for all human kind. The issue of immigration has sucked the common sense from the room, replacing it with impassioned and emotional arguments. 

As a bonus mama, a Geege, an Aunt, and a Godmother, it drew tears to my eyes to hear the cries of little ones for their mothers. I cringed to think that these babies have no understanding of what is happening or why. They woke up one morning and left everything they knew because their parents  told them too. Or worse, they were pulled out of bed in the middle of the night by their parents and given to a total stranger to set out on a journey that was filled with dangers far beyond their comprehension. My heart hurts for the children who did not a have choice in their future. 

But my frustration and anger does not lie with Congress or our President. It lies with the parents who traveled with their children and chose to enter the United States by bypassing a legal check point. Parents who believe the false narrative that children sent "unaccompanied" into America will be granted citizenship and be released to family members already here. Parents who paid thousands of dollars to smugglers or coyotes to get their children here, with or without the realization that they may never hear from their child again with the reasons varying from death on the journey to disappearance into the black hole of sex slavery and human trafficking. 

The word "privilege" is thrown about quite a bit these days. We use it to shame various sects of society for being something or having something that is beyond human control or to shame someone who has a varying opinion. We use the word as an apology for being who we are. But, we only do that when it fits our narrative. In this instance, this isn't a black and white issue, which is the cultural divide we are most accustomed to in this country. The issue we are facing today is a citizenship issue. It is a poverty issue. It's a breakdown of the family issue. It's a "the grass is greener on the other side of the fence issue". It's a heart issue. And it is one that we are encouraging without understanding the consequences and ramifications of what we are doing. 

We are "privileged" Americans who are uninformed and uneducated on the actual political climate in Central and South America. We have little to no comprehension of the cultural make-up in these countries to know the actual "why" behind their pilgrimage to America. The answer to the "why" would, in my opinion, dramatically change the opinions of those opposed to the handling of our current situation. 

The following facts were written by a missionary to Guatemala, Lori Delle Nij, who has lived in Central America for over 30 years. You can read more about her ministry, Morning Glory Christian Academy, here. I have rearranged her talking points for clarity, but the emphasis is hers. 

The Truth About Central and South America

Fact-Central and Southern American immigrants are NOT fleeing war torn countries. Guatemala was the last Central American country to sign a peace agreement and that was in 1996. So over twenty years have come and gone.

Fact- There is NO on-going POLITAL persecution or systematic persecution by Government Officials.

Fact-Central America is NOT overrun by drug cartels. Yes, there are drug cartels and, yes, there is drug-induced violence. But I highly doubt it would be at a higher ratio than any other major city in the world.

Fact- All Central American countries are integrated and families and people can freely move between the five countries. So, if it is gang violence that they are running from, they don´t have to run so far. And it is highly more likely that MS 13 will find you in the Hispanic barrios in the US than in the non-gang infiltrated parts of Central America. Most of this gang problem was exported from the United States. 

The Truth About Illegal Immigration and Poverty

Fact- Illegal immigration is one of the most destabilizing factors in the existence of thousands of families in Central America. 

Fact- The economic situation of very few families is actually changed by moving to the United States. The majority of Hispanics live in the ghettos and fringes of the populations relying on social services, welfare and public medicine to subsist. Enamored by “stuff” and bewitched by so much, they tend to live from paycheck to paycheck, filling their houses with material possessions, saving and investing nothing. The same happens to the money sent back to the family.  

Fact-In order to pay the “coyote” (the going rate is over $10,000 a head), people go to loan sharks to finance their pilgrimage north. They sign a bill of sale for their homes and property in order to get this “loan.” If the loan shark is honest, once they pay off the loan, the loaner will sign another bill of sale essentially giving their land and home back. The operative word here is honest. At ten percent monthly interest, the immigrant must send $1000 a month home just to cover the interest on the loan. This assuming that they begin to work the minute their feet hit North American soil. If not, next month they owe interest on $11,000 and on and on. When they can no longer keep up, the loan shark takes possession and the wife and children no longer have even a simple home and land. So instead of helping their family, they sink them even deeper into poverty and debt. (I could tell you stories of people who I have convinced to take that same $10,000, invest it in a business and stay in Guatemala. They have paid their debt and their family has prospered) If they get caught entering the U.S., they loose their investment and are even poorer than ever.  When the illegal aliens finally pay off their debt and decide to buy land for their families the dollars push up the land prices for the rest of the country creating a false economy financed by dollars from family members. The number one influx of money in Guatemala is from “remesas familiars.”  

Fact-Immigration is NOT the answer to world poverty. The United States is not the only place on earth that a person can prosper and have “the American Dream.” The same dream is possible anywhere in the world with education, hard work and dedication. Perhaps not as easy, but possible.  

The Truth about the Treatment of Women and Children and Family Structure in Hispanic Countries

Fact- Countless children are being raised in fatherless homes. This is especially significant when you take into account that Hispanic females, especially Mayan descent females are not educated to make decisions or be self-sufficient. Most females in Latin America are raised to be obedient and subservient to their fathers and ultimately to their husbands. I have many moms who are unable to make simple decisions about their homes and children without calling their husband in the United States to ask permission. To the extent of last week a child needed stitches and we couldn't get permission for emergency care because the father was at work and couldn´t answer the phone. This has caused a terrible vacuumed in the education and discipline of adolescent children. Mothers who can't make their children go to bed or even to school. I had a seventh grade girl whose father would send the monthly money in her name and she would administrate it as she saw fit. Probably 2/3 of the 700 children in Morning Glory have fathers in the United States, most of them have not seen their fathers since early childhood. Their father is just the person that sends them money and stuff.  

Fact- This exodus of males, single and married, has left an imbalance of male/female ratio that has further destabilized what families are left since the chances of finding a single mate are thin. Young girls set their caps for married men and destroy homes and lives and the cycle repeats itself over and over. Many women are left to live alone with no hope of finding a life mate. There are villages and communities in Guatemala where there are no healthy males between 18 and 60. 

Fact- As time goes by and the memory of home grows more and more distant, men forget about the family they left behind and form new families in the United States abandoning their Guatemalan children and wives. Again poverty remains and is even worse.
Fact- The children of immigrants lack cultural identity, neither fully Guatemalan nor North American. Not accepted by Guatemalans, not accepted by North Americans they become ripe fodder for the identity of belonging to a gang. Anthropologists explain this is the main reason gangs are filled with Hispanic young people.  

Fact- If the U.S. government were to give “get pass and go card” to every adult taking a child across the border it would open up a Pandora’s box of kidnapping, smuggling and child abuse unimaginable to the North American mind. 

So, Now What?

What is the Christian thing to do? How should the church respond? By making informed decisions and not listening to the panic motivated discourse of the press. 

Fact- The children (who have crossed the U.S. boarder) are not suffering horrible mistreatment. Central American children grow up tough; most of them learn responsibilities of caring for younger siblings from a very tender age. In their humble homes they sleep on straw mats (if they are blessed) on dirt floors. If they are so lucky as to have a bed, they will sleep as many as six to a bed. They use outdoor latrines if available, if not the cornfield will do. They have no concept of a hot water bath, as most of them bathe standing by the family “pila” (the cement tank where water is gathered) or the plastic drum. If God is good to their family, they eat one full meal a day, meat once a week and the other meals consist of tortillas and coffee. They get beans if they are lucky and maybe an egg and piece of sweet bread. Many children eat tortillas and salt for breakfast and supper. So, please don´t cry about the inhumane conditions because, for most children, it is better than anything they have known.  

Fact- The separation is necessary to determine the parentage of the children. Many children are traveling with coyotes and people that are using them as pawns. They have formed an attraction to the adult because it is the only protector that they have known for weeks as they pass through Mexico.  

"If the church truly wants to stop illegal immigration and the separation of children and parents, then invest in mission organization working in the Central American and Hispanic countries to educate and train young men and women to work and stay in their community and culture and make a difference. We need money to start trade schools, money to fund education, money to help single mothers support their children, allowing them to go to school instead of working on the streets to help feed the family. We need organizations that build homes for the poor, organizations that teach Biblical principles and not only feed the hungry but teach the hungry to fish and feed their families. Organizations that are closing their doors because of lack of funding.  

Once it is determined that the need for asylum is real and the family is reunited then how about the local church opening their doors and the empty bedrooms to sponsor a family. Instead of sending the families off into the shadows of the ghetto, how about the older men teaching the father a trade, the older women teaching a young mother Proverbs 31 principles and young men and women modeling Christian principles and life lessons for the older children. Can you imagine what a worldwide impact the church could have if every single church were to take in just one family?"

Follow Up

I went back to Lori and asked for news sites or something to help back up what she is saying for those who will not want to believe her story without "documentation". This was her response: 

"News site? you must be kidding! Guatemalan news is either controlled by the government or the international networks. There is little or no unbiased news. Example, it is common knowledge that over 2000 people are missing from the recent volcano explosion, the government is insisting on the 100 dead and 200 missing story even though eye witness testimony and the families say otherwise. News will only say what they want it to say."

So, What's Next? 

Regardless of your faith tradition or system, regardless of where you stand politically, it is possible to put differences aside and help to correct the course we are currently on. 

But it starts at home. It starts with how we treat each other, here, now. Discourse without civility threatens the fragile nature of democracy. There is guilt to be shared on both sides of Party lines.The true test of love today is going to be able to love those that don't agree with you. Whether you are for it or against it, be a leader by living a life that no one can question.

I wrote and compiled this with the knowledge that I will have friends who vehemently disagree with my stance. And I am ok with that. I have a lot of friends in my circle who think differently than I do and it is what makes those friendships so rich and fulfilling. Those people challenge me and make me better than I was yesterday. I will always speak with respect and kindness in my discourse. I am hopeful that will be what is given in return. 

Titus 2:7-8 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.