My View On The Guatemalan Refugees Caravan

Living in a small southern, rural community like Dillon does not exempt or prohibit us from being aware of the major issues and events of our times. Due to the news and social media, information about major events are easily accessible and obtainable. Such is the case about thousands of refugees that are mostly of Guatemalan origin, who are presently passing through Mexico on their way to the southern borders of America.
A phone call from a hospital in Florence where the caller works became the inspiration for this article today. The man had just come out of a meeting that somehow was sidetracked away from their primary purpose and subject to a discussion about this very desperate and unfortunate conglomeration of pilgrims who, by all indication, are fleeing abject poverty, violence, and hopelessness. Being one of my congregants, he wanted to know my view on the matter. In my column today, I will share with you what I shared with him.
To begin with, I have mixed emotions about the large caravan of immigrants who are trekking through Mexico toward the southern borders of America. First, my heart of compassion goes out to these very unfortunate people who are, for the most part, in a desperate journey to what they consider as the land of opportunity and safety. It is hard for me to believe that these impoverished people, who some have labeled as a mob, would be traveling this far if there was not an urgency that was compelling them to leave their native land (as the millions did who came from Europe by ships to America during the heyday of the immigration boom). These European immigrants, who were overwhelmingly white and from countries like Italy, Ireland, Germany, Russia, and etc., were coming to America, the land of opportunity that would afford them the right to the American dream of peace, prosperity, and protection from political oppression and tyranny. These European immigrants had to pass by Lady Liberty (before their ships would dock) who greeted and welcomed them with these immortal words of Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refused of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Besides the Native Americans, whose ancestors were the indigenous people of America, and African Americans, whose ancestors came here as slaves, all other ethnic groups came to this land that was called the New World and land of opportunity as pilgrims and immigrants. Ironically, for whites who came by the hundreds of thousands from Europe, America was indeed a land of opportunity and dreams, but for the Red Man and Black Man, early American history proved to be a nightmare. And so from a historical perspective, I believe we are wrong as a nation to have welcomed immigrants from Europe and now many generations later, those who are the descendants of the first great wave of immigrants seem to have either forgotten their history and origin or choose to be swayed by racism and white nationalism.
Now that I have given you the first view that stems from my mixed emotions in regard to the immigrant caravan that is passing through Mexico enroute to our southern borders, I must allow the pendulum to swing to the other side. Just as there are some very practical and legitimate reasons that can be argued why this mass of people from Guatemala and perhaps a few other Central American countries should be allowed in our nation, there are equally some reasons to be considered why they should not. First and foremost, as a sovereign nation, we have both the right and responsibility to protect and guard our borders from any illegal entry, regardless of the many reasons why people want to come to America (in light of the fact that many are fleeing oppression, poverty, violence, and at times worse). Like all other sovereign nations, we are the gatekeepers of our borders and must (through much diligence and vigilance) make sure that we are cautious and careful about who and what comes in or goes out. These words from Carl Thomas, who is a conservative writer and columnist for the Tribune Content Agency, in a recent column entitled “Invasion of the Country Snatchers” will certainly add to my argument and perspective:
Border Patrol agents are catching a higher percentage of those who try to cross the border illegally, according to a Department of Homeland Security report. But “nearly one out of every 10 illegal immigrants crossing the southwest border,” the Washington Times wrote in 2016,” is now demanding asylum.” Because of laws Congress refuses to strengthen, most undocumented immigrants allowed to stay in the U.S. until their cases are adjudicated, but nearly all of them, the CPB reports, fail to show up at a removal hearing before a federal judge.
It hasn’t taken long for word to get to those who want to get free stuff from America that if they can just set foot on U.S. soil and are from counties other than Mexico, with which we have a repatriation agreement, they are likely to remain here.
Though my heart goes out to the people in the immigrant caravan, I am certainly not indifferent and unemphathic to their plight. However, as an American and realist, I am compelled to see things from a practical perspective. As a nation who is trillions of dollars in debt, with an urgent need to repair our failing infrastructure, our healthcare system, social security system, public education, as well as assure that our military remain the best in the world, there is just a certain amount of destitute people that we can permit to come in and add to the economic burden of our federal government that is already stretched and strained to the limit.
Perhaps a greater way to help these desperate and pitiful people is to find a way to help their leaders and governments to make life better for them in their own countries. Then there would be no need for them to leave and come to America as refugees. As strong and rich as we are as a nation, we cannot heal all of the ills of our neighbors in Central America or any other place.