Finding Middle Ground

Paintings from the UNCHR Refugee Art Show taken in the Panama Airport Dec. 2017

I’m better at talking about traditional textiles than international political issues, but even textiles have become political of late, so there is no escape for me. I’ve been on a news fast for more than a year, but the horror of the separation of families at the border has catapulted me out of my self-induced stupor. The older I get, the more I believe that civil discourse is our only hope. It starts with listening to the other side and what they have to say, and more, why they believe what they do. For me, letting go of the concept of “the other side” is a big first step, because in fact all this stuff is so incredibly complicated that it’s more like a many-faceted crystal than a two-sided issue. That said, what follows is what I have heard here in Guatemala, a real mix of feelings and beliefs. These are not my words, but those of Guatemalans I know. My goal right now is to share people’s ideas and perspectives with you, and then a few statistics. My personal ongoing goal is to figure out what we agree on, and move forward from there. Please, US government and people, take that as your goal too.

Trump is right. The fault here lies with the parents, who never should have taken their kids up there in the first place.


Every country has a right to defend its borders in the way it sees fit. But separating children from parents serves no purpose toward defending a border and is inhumane and unacceptable.

I talk with people and tell them the dangers of going, urge them to not go. But they do anyway. It’s discouraging.


This all began with Obama giving children a chance at getting legal papers. That gave parents the idea that there was hope for a safer and better future for their children in the US.

Everyone knows someone who has gone to the US and done well, so it is easy to hang onto that idea. Go north, make some quick money, then come home to be with family and one’s own culture again. Or, work hard, build a life, and then bring your family north.

The coyotes (human traffickers) charge at least $3,000 to take someone north, usually far more. It’s not the poorest people who are going up, the poorest cannot afford the cost of the trip.

Yes, I know it is illegal for me to work there, but I can go in legally on my tourist visa, work five months, then come home with enough money to expand my business so it is viable. I want to live here, but I need some startup capital. It is worth the risk of getting caught.

Bus in Guatemala City:
Don’t be another number:
In the last six months there have been:
235 Deaths
32,400 Deportations
223,869 Caught at the Border
70% of women and girls sexually assaulted
Don’t travel illegally to the North.

The gangs threatened my older son and gang raped my daughter, so they went north to be safe. My daughter came back and was murdered, and my younger son is now also being threatened by the gangs. I don’t want my older son to come back. He would be killed.

The newspaper calls it “irregular entry” into the United States, not illegal. Because crossing the border to find work cannot be seen in the same light as murder or stealing from someone, irregular entry is not considered a crime, more like a misdemeanor. It’s a vocabulary difference between English and Spanish that makes for a monumental difference in opinion as to what is going on.


Population of Guatemala: 17,245,346. The country is a little smaller than Ohio. 56% of the population is under 25 years old, and another baby is born every minute. The official unemployment rate for youth is 5.8% but that figure is for the formal sector only; 70% of jobs in the country are in the informal sector, for which no real data exists. In 2012 the homicide rate for youth 0 – 19 was 22 per 100,000; (in the US that number is 4). 68% of all children live below the poverty line: 85% of indigenous children live below the poverty line.




5 thoughts on “Finding Middle Ground

  1. Deb:              Think you are right in all you comments.  But I think it’s a lot worse than you think.  It’s not just people with differing points of view.  It’s people with differing points of view actually using, abusing the women and children as a strategy and hiding their real goals, which they know that a large majority will not accept, behind the arguments involving the women and children.               I have a couple of DACA employees at the farm. Nice people; hard workers. I think quite a large majority of Americans want them and others who are already residents to have a path to citizenship. But it has to be as part of a package in which the mess at the border actually gets cleaned up.  You may remember that under President Reagan we went through a big amnesty program with a promise to have the borders fixed, but then Congress failed to make the promised fix.            There are some people on the political right who fear the growth of the Spanish ghettos.  From my point of view, this migration is not that big. From 1800 to 1900 the population of the US grew from 2million to 67 million. Almost all by immigration. That did not hurt the country. People were up in arms about the horrible italians and Irish flooding the country… but now they are part of the backbone that makes our country strong.  The Latin Americans generally do come with a Christian cultural background, and in my experience are hard working honest people…they make great Americans. But I think, and I think most Americans think, we do need to absolutely get control of the borders, so we can control the human trafficing, the coyote operations, the mistreatment of the women and  Children especially girls, as they make the trip, the drug trafficing and the move to the US of South American criminals and criminal organizations like the drug cartels and MS 13.            Unfortunately those who just want open borders, accuse those with the views expressed in the above paragraph as racist and mean spirited.  Shouting, screaming, demonstrations etc. But they will not sit down to work out a solution because they don’t want a solution.  They want the present unworkable situation because it effectively achieves open borders.  So the mess continues.  They like the DACA kids and now young adults to be dependent on the government (and their political party), but believe me it takes a toll on the families. I know because I have had to work through the issues with several of my employees whose families are affected.  The law the way it is creates a permanent underclass of people in the shadows and living a life of daily uncertainty and stress related to their futures … that is not good for them or for the country.            Hope you are well.  Think of you often.  Howard            

    Howard Green


  2. Very good, thank you. Keep ‘em coming. Didn’t know about the public warnings on the buses, but I’m happy to see them.

    If you haven’t read it, get ahold of Enrique’s Journey. I try to bring a spanish language version w/me every trip to Guatemala.

    xo MA



  3. You lost me at “Trump is right.”

    On Saturday, June 30, 2018, Weaving Futures with Deborah Chandler wrote:

    > Deborah Chandler posted: ” I’m better at talking about traditional > textiles than international political issues, but even textiles have become > political of late, so there is no escape for me. I’ve been on a news fast > for more than a year, but the horror of the separation of fam” >


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