For hundreds of years, people have come to the United States seeking asylum from war-torn countries, corrupt governments, overwhelming poverty, and religious persecution in hopes of creating a better life for themselves and their families. This hope is foundational and fundamental to the compact of the American dream—there is a place for you here.
The caravan of migrants from Central America is not immune to this message. Since March of 2018, two groups of more than 3,000 families have been trekking through Mexico to the United States. Comprised of Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Salvadorans, these groups are seeking asylum from violence, poverty, and persecution in their own countries.
The migrant caravan began as a single group of around 160 people at a bus station in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The plan to migrate to the United States had been in the making for one month, and a former politician posted about it on Facebook, spreading the news of the caravan. The group set off the next day with more than 1,000 migrants and is now up to 4,000 and growing.
Word of the caravan made its way to President Trump who, just before the midterm elections, crafted his own deceiving and exaggerated version of the story. He shot out accusations of this caravan being funded by George Soros, a major Democratic donor. He stated that the caravan included Middle Eastern young men and accused them of extreme violence against Mexican police forces. He even tweeted that the caravan was “all Democrats’ fault for weak laws.”
With illegal immigration occupying a central pillar to Trump’s presidential platform, this issue is personal to him. He sent U.S. troops to secure the border and used violence to keep these thousands of migrants out of the U.S. Just a few weeks ago, groups of migrants ran to the border of Mexico and California but were met with tear gas. Other groups have been met at the border by barricades of U.S. soldiers blocking their way with riot shields.
While the stories of these families coming to the U.S. in search of a new life are heartbreaking and inspiring, the complexity lies in the sheer number of people coming. Can the U.S. truly support a wave of thousands of new immigrants at once? Is there an effective solution? Or is this a problem that is, as Trump said, the fault of the Democrats?
Both sides of the political aisle shout out general solutions, like building walls or deporting those that have come illegally, and practical solutions seem out of reach. Trying to solve issues such as immigration is overwhelming and daunting. However, communities can act now to aid and assist, regardless of congressional gridlock. Rather than placing blame and getting caught up in a political quagmire, here are three things anyone can do to be helpful, compassionate, and ready to assist individuals and families who may be incorporated into our communities and country.
- Contact your Representatives: Express your disapproval of the actions of the border patrol, the building of the wall, and any other violent action against immigrants, especially women and children.
- Donate: Donate to nonprofits and humanitarian groups (UNICEF, Save the Children, Amnesty International Americas) that are offering aid to members of the caravan. This can be money, water, hygiene and sanitation packs, sunscreen, clothes, etc.
- Educate yourself: Do the research to understand what is happening, how it affects the United States, and what you can do to help others stay informed.
At the end of the day, the United States cannot shut out these families. We cannot give up the effort to find a solution just because the immigration debate is too complicated. Hot-button issues like immigration, healthcare, and gun control, are inevitably growing more and more complex. However, throwing in the towel is not the American way. Solution-focused conversations must continue, however difficult, uncomfortable, seemingly unsuccessful, or confrontational they may seem. These conversations are crucial to continuing the hope and message of the American dream: there is a place for you here.