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.
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.