According to stories in The New York Times and The Economist, more than 52,000 minors from Central America have been detained in a dangerous, desperate attempt to enter the US. The count is 52,000 since October, and 9,000 of those last month alone – a heartbreaking record. Compared to the 15,700 children detained in the prior year, authorities predict that this number will balloon to an unprecedented 240,000 by year’s end.
Alone, without parents, some are as young as five. Their mothers have sewn phone numbers of family members living in the US into their clothing.
These numbers startle, but let’s not allow statistics to sanitize the dialog. This is about children encountering a real-life chamber of horrors including rape, kidnapping and death. We know how many have been detained, but we don’t know how many didn’t last long enough.
It is almost impossible for me to relate to this incredible tragedy. I get anxious letting my seventeen-year-old son drive alone at night, even with his cell phone fully charged in case of an emergency. I cannot imagine being so desperate as to send my child on a 1300 mile trek with barely enough food and water to last a couple of days.
Popular media has lost sight of the children, opting to focus on the political consequences for republicans or democrats instead of the heart-wrenching humanitarian crisis on our doorstep.
It reminds me of the Scribes and Pharisees arguing about violating the Sabbath instead of, as Jesus did, healing a person in need. As I write, thousands of children are landing at the border of this country, famished, frightened and literally dying for some small act of kindness. Do we really care how this will affect the next election? Are we really that calloused a nation?
This tragedy demands immediate action to help these children, but it also demands a long term solution to the root causes of the problem. These children risk their lives to come to this country because they live in extreme poverty with none of the opportunities we have in this country to make a living. I just returned from a week in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, visiting two of our communities. In Nueva Esperanza, Julio and his wife, Santa, hosted us in the home they now own after working tirelessly to pay off their land loan. Their daughter Hazel (12) walks more than an hour one way every day to go to school, overjoyed with the opportunity to learn.
I noticed the entire family could not stop smiling and when I asked Julio why, he told me he how his life has changed. He told me how Agros had given he and his wife, Santa, the opportunity to be successful and he seized it. With land and technical assistance for Agros coupled with his hard work he and Santa pushed hard to use the proceeds from every coffee harvest to pay off their land. “With our land loan paid, everything we make now comes to my family. I cannot imagine being anywhere else.”
We have a choice: debate policies and politics or force ourselves to look into the faces of these children piling up at our border. If we truly want to permanently solve this immigration crisis, then we must use our resources to bring hope and opportunity to desperately poor families where they live.
Julio and Santa are among thousands who have seized the opportunity to rise above poverty. Given the chance to work their own land in their own country among a community of neighbors, Julio and Santa would never send Hazel any farther than the community school.
Family by family and community by community, Agros has permanently broken the cycle of extreme poverty. With your help we can stem the tide of this human misery.
Will you join me?