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Radical new approach needed to address tragedy at the border

The first tragedy with regards to the immigration issue is the misleading, uninformed media reporting about it. We are told how tragic it is that kids are sleeping on mattresses on a concrete floor and go days without a shower. In whole areas of Guatemala, a concrete floor and a clean mattress, as opposed to a dirt floor, is an unaffordable dream. I am sure that most of those kids have not had a shower since they were born. In my travels to rural Guatemala, I have never seen a shower.

The media also mentions these people pay a coyote anywhere from $2,500 to $7,000 to help them travel, and aid in crossing the border. If they can raise that much money, they are more well off than many Guatemalans, who do not have $50 for food and medicine.

The second tragedy is the enormous amount of money spent on the legal process of detention, border control, lawyers, administrative costs, etc. An administration hearing to consider the case of one person entering the country illegally can cost about $10,000. Meanwhile there are thousands of Guatemalan children who are mentally and physically stunted because of malnutrition. The ACLU and the many  advocacy groups defending border crossers would be far more helpful if they directed their funds to help people in Guatemala instead of pleading individual cases in U.S. courts.

Tragedy number three is that no one, of any political persuasion, is advocating a solution to the border crisis. When I was born, the population of Guatemala was just over 2 million. It is now 18 million and growing by 300,000 per year. And that’s just one country. Legal or illegal immigration can never alleviate the resulting poverty.

Unless the U.S. helps address the need for birth control, and the education of girls in Central America, the downward spiral of poverty will continue forever.

The only possible solution to the crisis is a drastic change in border policy.

1. Have a visa system in Central America, etc. where a predetermined number of people are allowed into the country.

2. Close the border to everyone who does not have a visa. If you do not have a visa, you are immediately sent back. There will be no more detentions and administrative hearings in the U.S.

3. Redirect the billions of dollars that the above saves to promote birth control, education and economic development in the affected countries.

Tom Sullivan has been a donor and activist in Guatemala for the last 19 years. He is the owner of Charity Painting, a house painting company that donates to nonprofits focusing on women’s health and children’s education in Guatemala. You can reach him at tsullj@comcast.net.

 

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