Immigration reform is a hot topic these days with more than 68,000 minors caught crossing our southern border in the past year. Who are these kids and why are they there? On a trip to our partner workshop in rural Mexico last spring, my eyes were opened to the challenges facing impoverished Mexican and Central American families...
Imagine you live in a rural community in Mexico or Central America. The only job available is to work in the fields 14 hours a day in the hot sun for a wage that doesn't provide enough for you to adequately feed your family or send your children to school. The education that the local school in the community offers is "free" except that you need to buy a uniform, books and shoes you can't afford. Even if you could afford them the teachers don't always show up for class and the education offered by the government is poor at best.
Many families in the community have one parent who has gone "north" to the US to find work. They make this difficult decision because, just like us, they want the best for their children; their hope is to be able to send money back to provide a better life for their family. Typically, in a few short months their children are in enrolled in the small private school in the village and are gaining weight and the family may even be adding onto their small home. Sometimes the parents return after a year, but often they don't.
These are the choices facing many of the illegal immigrants that come to the US from Mexico and Central America. They don't want to leave their family or community, but abject poverty and the opportunity to earn money in the US leave them little choice. Unfortunately, the decision of many immigrants to leave their families is wreaking havoc on families and communities in Mexico and Central America. In many cases, the parent who leaves never returns and children are left feeling abandoned and the family, broken. These children often run away from home at their first opportunity to go “north” to find their missing parent. It is a dangerous trip where children stow away on trains, are victims of violence, rape and theft amongst other crimes. Often times these children have not even reached their 10th birthday. This is the story of many of the children currently stuck at our Southern border.
So what can be done? Immigration reform is an extremely complicated issue, and there is certainly no panacea. Fortunately, there are steps we can take on a grassroots level to make a difference in the lives of families who are stuck in impoverished communities which will help meet needs and keep families together...
The 1ST step is to help provide WORK in their own communities. Traditionally, family is a central value to Latin American culture so people won't leave their community and parents won't leave their children if there is fair work available locally. Our Community Collection features jewelry made in one such community deep in the heart of Mexico and leather goods made at a vocational school in Honduras. Since our partnership began a year ago, the workshop in Mexico have added 5 new employees and have employed even more people from the community on some of our larger projects.
We all love the tagline "Made in the USA" because it employs Americans. I believe everyone is created in the image of God so I want to see all God's creation gainfully employed no matter where they live. When products are fair trade, the stamp "Made in Mexico”, “Made in Honduras” or “Made in Guatemala” etc. can strengthen local communities, educate children, empower women, keep families together, prevent illegal immigration and the many challenges such immigration causes in the US, Mexico and other Central American countries.
So join Fashion & Compassion in our grassroots immigration reform effort to transform communities in Mexico and Honduras by supporting local job opportunities so that families can stay together! Shop our Community Collection today!
Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario
The Stranger (a documentary film by the Evangelical Immigration Table)