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Open the door, not Pandora’s box, to immigrants | Letter of the Week

Letter of the Week - File photo
Letter of the Week
— image credit: File photo

A recent letter writer to the Federal Way Mirror expressed her reservations pertaining to the dilemma with preventing illegal crossings coming to the United States.

Although I do not take umbrage with her personal rumination, it does perturb me to a certain degree that her opinion piece ends with a diatribe at almost everything that is wrong with regards to foreign relations on behalf of the current presidential administration.

By opening this Pandora’s box, she alludes to the need to stand up and turn a blind eye towards disavowing child trafficking and simply return these children and individuals to their home countries without due process afforded to them. I offer an opposing viewpoint.

Unless I am mistaken, we are still a nation of immigrants. This country was founded on the principles of freedom that is so eloquently etched on the Statue of Liberty by Emma Lazarus (“give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses …”), which was really a symbol for the abolishment of slavery before most individuals associate it with modern day immigration.

Each of us, including my own family, have direct links to another country (thank you ancestry.com and 23andme.com) and on my fathers’ side, I too, am a first-generation American.

Twice in the past five months, I’ve left the relative confines of this city I call home and work.

I participated in (humanitarian) trips to Guatemala; most recently three weeks ago (and you’ll be happy to know not one red penny of the taxpayers’ dollars went to fund my trip). On each of these trips, I worked with those who live in abject poverty and misery.

On my most recent trip, I visited an amazing school run by two former Washington state career technical education teachers that is providing vocational skills to high school students outside a village on Lake Atitlan. On a prior trip, I worked with a school for the deaf. Both afforded me the luxuries to see that there are individuals doing a lot to improve many of the lives in Central America, and in particular, Guatemala.

Yes, it is a shock to see the living standards, the crime, the distraught faces of the 7-year-old selling newspapers or the 12-year-old shining the shoes of the local businessman. At first, as a teacher, my natural inclination — “Why aren’t these kids in school?” — quickly evaporates when I find out the entire family must work to merely subsist and provide food on a blue tarp on the ground.

Or, if they are fortunate, a small table of some sort. But my work wasn’t entirely focused on the destitute. I also had an opportunity to see the rapidly expanding middle-class and upper-class, the high-rise condo’s starting off in the low $300,000’s and palatial shopping malls with their marbled floors that make Seattle’s Pacific Place look in need of a serious renovation.

However, lurking beneath this perceived luster, many Central American countries have a crime problem left in place after American armed forces invaded and eventually left, leaving countries tattered and socially shredded. (Guatemala government overthrown at the behest of United Fruit Company, 1954; El Salvador, 1984 and Nicaragua, 1979, the latter two with political diatribes against the United States).

In its place was an emerging disconnect that birthed a crime rate that today is inclusive of rapes, murders, kidnappings and drug trade. As a result, the streets are emptied out once the sun sets and the lively shopping scene during the day is non-existent.

It isn’t a stretch to connect why there are thousands fleeing Central America and coming through our porous border; it simply isn’t secured, both the northern and southern boundaries (no offense to our Canadian friends, not that many desire to emigrate to the United States).

I met and continue to meet many individuals with advanced degrees akin to mine. They visited America. Some have lived in America on guest visas and yet, they returned to Guatemala. They see the potential for economic growth and a better style of living (with an education) that has the potential to turn the tide and “… lift all boats.”

I see it in many areas, from the big-box home improvement stores, warehouse membership, chain restaurants, golf courses and five-star hotels. Here in the U.S., I’m seeing Hollister clothing with “Made in Guatemala” labels, Trader Joe’s vegetables “grown in Guatemala” and coffee-grinding (no surprises there) machines with the “Made in Guatemala” label as well.

Guatemala is a beautiful country, beautiful geography and a population of genuine people who invited me into their homes and their lives. However, putting it bluntly, vicious crime remains a problem not just in many Central American countries but all over the world.

A horrifying problem practically on the back steps of our door, of not simply child trafficking for money, but an attitude of those who live a life of misery associated with “I’ve nothing to lose, including my life. But I’ve everything to gain if I can simply make it to America.”

Until our borders are secured, we will continue to be a nation for both those who are legal and illegals, as well as those who are undocumented, yet with college degrees (“dreamers”).

I’d rather do my part to open the doors of opportunity instead of opening Pandora’s box. Come along with me on my next return trip. I know of a great coffee house in Guatemala. Buenos Dias!

Ron Podmore, Federal Way Public Schools teacher


 

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