Maybe at the family dinner table this thanksgiving break Uncle Something-or-Other started talking about that dang caravan and those darn immigrants, and maybe you sat there completely clueless. I’m guessing you don’t really know too much about what this caravan thing is? Or why everyone is up in arms about it? Heck, maybe you yourself feel a lil uncomfy with it all, but you’re not entirely sure what’s going on. I was in a similar position when I first heard of the ‘migrant caravan’, so I did what I do best – I listened to podcast after podcast, read various articles, watched videos; I did the research, so you don’t have to.
Let’s start with the what-the-heck :
On October 13th of this year, a group of mostly Hondurans began to flee from the “crime-ridden city” and head to America. They formed what is now known as the ‘migrant caravan’ and were soon joined by others from Guatemala and El Salvador.
What exactly is a caravan? Is it a super fun vehicle decked out for a family-road-trip of fun ! Woo-Hoo? No, definitely not. A caravan is a group of migrants traveling together for the sake of security. So, it’s basically a big-ole group of people sticking together and relying on one another, because at this point they’re all they have.
Let’s get to the why-the-heck?
This is the question I find the most important. Get out those toddler goggles and get ready to ask why a whole heck-of-a-lot.
Why do these people need to leave their homes? Why are they coming to the States? Why should we allow them in our country? Why should I care?
What could possibly be so bad in Central America that thousands of people feel the need to escape?
Central America was plagued with civil wars in the 1980s, mostly in El Salvador and Guatemala. It is clear the the countries never fully recovered from these wars. NPR Reporter Robert Siegle on the podcast “All Things Considered”, asked director of the Washington Office on Latin America, Joy Olsen, her thoughts on events in Central America. When asked about the police presence she responded: “They all technically have police forces but the police forces don’t function very well. Corruption is a huge problem. And the justice systems don’t function very well either. So prosecution rates are incredibly low.”.
Central America is a fairly dangerous place at the moment. There is a large gap between the very rich and the very poor with hardly any middle ground. This means that the very rich live comfortable safe lives away from the violence because they can afford to be protected. Unfortunately, yes, you did read that correctly. Olsen states that “security’s been privatized to a great extent”. The police forces are extremely corrupt and only protect those that can pay their way to safety.
A lot of children are being raised in what is known as a red zone ((“a community controlled by gangs”)). These gang members set up road checks throughout cities and force citizens to pay an extortion racket. (I had no idea what that meant when I first read this NPR article, so naturally I looked it up. It appears to be a sort of fee that citizens have to pay after being threatened by violence, so that’s disgustingly disturbing.) And those gangs are trying to recruit the male children to join the gang and recruit young girls to be sex slaves. One mother said her daughter was 11 years old when the gang requested she join.
Just pause for a second and take that in. Your eleven year old daughter – she’s finishing up fifth grade, she’s stressed about where she’s gonna go to middle school. Will her and her friends stick together? Does that cute kid next to her think she’s cute too? She should be worried about the math multiplications quiz she has on Friday, or what she should make her parents for Christmas, She should be worrying if her best friend is mad at her or what she should wear to family dinner. She should not be worrying if her father will be murdered or if her body will be sold away for sex. Your eleven year old daughter! Your twelve year old son becoming one of the criminals who kills and rapes. Who in their right mind would want that future for their child? What would you do? Would you do everything in your power to get them out of that environment? Would you travel thousands of miles to keep them safe? I don’t know what you would do! But I would do that for my thirteen year old campers, and they aren’t even my sweat and blood in human form. I would do that for my twelve year old neighbors that I haven’t spoken to in three years.
These people are not criminals! If you love a good podcast then I’d recommend “From Mexico, the Reality of the Migrant Caravan” produced by The New Yorker and published on November 1st of this year. It follows Jonathan Blitzer as he answers questions about the week he spent with the caravan. One of his main points is that these people are not violent! He says there have been no crimes committed with the group, no violence, no hatred. The worst rumor that spread was about someone “stealing babies” and then it turned out to be false. He talks about how loving and peaceful the people are; he shares how grateful they are to be leaving such a violent place and to try to provide a better future for their children. He says that most of them have hardly thought about what being in America will actually be like, or even if they will be able to get in. Their goal is not to infiltrate the states, it’s to escape the hell-hole they came from!
Now, I know that we can’t simply let all these people into our country just because they have a tragic backstory. Trust me, I am well aware of how optimistically naive that belief would be. But I do think there is something we, as a country, could do. What that is, I’m not entirely sure, but I don’t think the answer lies in hatred. I hardly think the answer ever lies within hatred. These people need help, and we are so fortunate that we have the opportunity to provide that. So, let’s help them. Let’s figure out something we can do. If the consensus is to not let them into our country as easily, then let’s come up with an alternative plan. We are too privileged to do nothing; we have the ability to help the world, so why the frick-frack are we not at least trying? If America is as great as we claim it to be, let’s prove to other countries that we are compassionate individuals who are not just money/power/fame hungry.
I recognize that this is a tricky situation; I recognize that I do not have all the answers, as I’m sure you don’t either. But I think we can agree that this is a situation we should treat with both our minds and our hearts.
America, the great melting pot, would not exist had our ancestors not decided to take a chance and leave a place they were not welcome. Always remember where we come from, remember our history, never forget.
“A Look At The Violence Driving Central American Families To Seek Asylum In The U.S.”
NPR, NPR, 25 June 2018, http://www.npr.org/2018/06/25/623318845/a-look-at-the-violence-
“Migrant Caravan: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?” BBC News, BBC, 26 Nov. 2018,
“The Corrupt Structures Driving The Exodus Out Of Central America.” NPR, NPR, 17 July
Wickenden, Dorothy. “From Mexico, the Reality of the Migrant Caravan.” The New Yorker,
The New Yorker, 5 Nov. 2018, http://www.newyorker.com/podcast/political-scene/from-
as always, if any of my information is wrong, please let me know and I will update it!