Monthly Archives: July 2014

Worthwhile to Stay, or Just Harder to Get Out?


New government regulations typically mean additional costs to whoever they affect .These additional costs get passed along to the customers who may fuss and protest, but in the end pay for the services anyway. Illegal immigration is no exception to the rule.

Thus, the  Obama administration’s offer to help Central American countries with security, in order to stem the flow of illegal immigration, will likely result in higher tariffs to make the trip north, but without a significant reduction in the actual numbers of travelers. It will also probably be a boom for security contractors and consultants as funding for training, equipping and supervising “counterparts” gets fast-tracked.

To be fair, we should take into account that the offer is broader. The White House Release of July 25 quotes President Obama´s remarks, “And we are committed to working together in partnership with each of these countries to find ways in which we can come up with more aggressive action plans to improve security and development and governance in these countries.” These countries, of course are Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The fact that the next paragraph compares the effort to current border security programs to halt drugs running north and guns running south is rather disheartening. See the entire press release here.

“Improving security and development and governance” sounds reasonable at first glance, but seen under the shadow of experience, the offer begins with control and ends with more control. Development and other comments on opportunity are more refreshing, although the top-down transplanted system has yet to be proven fruitful.

We always come back to the solution being a long-term investment in an educational program that builds opportunity and eliminates barriers. While actually the most reasonable and simple option, the fact that it offers no short-term financial gain for vested interests, seems to make it too idealistic. Someday, not too far off, we will need to make a decision between actually following up on what we preach or continuing to serve as flag-wavers for corporate interests. A case in point is the current conditioning of aid in El Salvador to the purchase of Monsanto seeds. Just how is governance strengthened with that level of interference? Is this how we promote transparency?

The immigration issue provides the opportunity, even the motivation, to do it right this time around. The opportunity is there, ripe for picking; this is where we demonstrate our values, our principals. Are we going to help make it worthwhile staying in Central America or just harder to leave?

We have been working towards making it worthwhile at the Amún Shéa, Center for Integrated Development in El Salvador. Please consider joining in with support. Let´s do it right this time around.


The Brightest and the Best

Perquín Musings, a book I penned in 2009 contains commentary regarding immigration. Given the current focus on the subject, and the fact that we have not seen much progress on the subject during the past five years, I present the short chapter “The Brightest and the Best.”

9780988592100That is a very innovative selection process up North to get the type of foreign workers needed.

First, set up the prize. Earn as much in one hour as for a whole day in El Salvador. Second, set up the obstacle course. Practically no visas, dangerous route through Guatemala and Mexico, jump the fence and a high-risk desert run at the end. Once there, faced with illegal status and immigration roundups as the order of the day.

Maybe there ought to be a new Statue of Liberty on the Rio Grande, dividing Texas from Mexico. It would have to be updated, of course, modeled after Britney Spears or the latest iconic talent, with her belly showing. The inscription reading “give me your tired, your poor…” would also need a little updating. It should read “Give me your most daring, your fittest, those willing to take chances. Give me your initiative, your future, your brightest and best.”

With around two million Salvadorans in the States, the largest national product is the remittances they send home. In sheer numbers, that workforce probably compares pretty much with the workforce left in El Salvador.

The Darwinist selection of those who go north, however, results in a quality unbalance within the two groups, at least at the gumption level.

It is probably too early to speculate on changes to the gene pool, but we are left working with those left behind.

FlowerWe are working to slow that talent drain. El Salvador needs a few of the brighest and best to stay here at home; to change the conditions that leave migration as the only option for providing a decent living.

We do not believe in quick fixes, but that with a focused effort, change will start happening before we know it.

We are Amún Shéa and we are out to change our world. Join with us! It will change, only if we work together on this.

Politically Competent

Were political posturing and other hidden interests put aside, I wager the current immigration crisis would to a great extent just fade away. A transparent objective look at the subject also requires losing the emotional baggage instigated by the flood of Central American children to the US border.

The plight of the children is serious and cause of great concern. However, we far too often see children pushed into the spotlight as adults lose the capacity for dialogue. Indeed, throughout the world, we are increasingly resorting to using victims as a substitute for debate. Should this tendency reach the point of actually provoking victimization in order to make a point, we will have arrived at a new depth of inhumanity. Some would affirm we are already there. Aspects of the current US border crisis do suggest we have reached a threshold in that respect.

I was told by a friend a few days ago that parts of his family immigrated back during the Second World War. Apparently the shortage of industrial labor force in US factories actually provoked the need to recruit workers from south of the border.

No expert on immigration, I am not clear of how the situation evolved over the years. What is perfectly clear is that, in spite of current legality issues and physical obstacles, everyone who gets through gets a job. One can only assume the existence of a real job market.

As to the reason behind not recognizing that demand or need, we would need to enter into the shadowland of interests, greed and political maneuvering. The “illegality status” creates an underworld of parallel, unregulated and highly profitable financial and commercial structures.

It also creates family rupture as parents cannot freely travel back home and periodically see their children. This is one of the main contributing factors to the current child immigration situation, in my opinion. I know people in this situation. They went to the USA for the employment opportunity and as the means of providing for their families. They had no intention of staying on, but the economy got tough so it is taking longer than originally planned. They are worried about their children, with all the bad news coming out and they are being forced to make the decision to stay or leave. Staying means bringing in the family.

Canada takes a different approach. Employment opportunities, complete with strict requirements, are published by the embassy. Recruitment, selection and work visas are coordinated through diplomatic channels. Employees travel by air, just like the rest of us. They enjoy vacation periods and are able to visit home periodically. Quite the contrast…

So, why is it that we cannot publically acknowledge what we actually are doing; what we actually need? Cannot we understand that the “out of sight, out of mind” attitude comes with a pricetag; we only favor dark interests when we refuse to see reality. It also opens us up to be manipulated and that generally is brought to bear on our emotions. The “plight of the children” is in fact very real. But have we had a part in creating the crisis because we refuse to respond to any other stimulus?

How much control have we given away, in exchange for not being bothered? Have we noticed how Politically Correct gets twisted into Politically Convenient? Perhaps we need to ask ourselves whether we are actually Politically Competent. Perhaps all of us, on both sides of the border, need to take back some control and responsibility… and leave the kids alone.