“…the destruction of the poor is their poverty.”
Two full years have past in my readings of former President Ronald Reagan. It is now the winter of 1983, and in his diary, he has just completed his state of the union speech. I afford President Reagan great allowance in his diary, given that it must not contain all that he thought, decided or acted upon, but gives a summary of his day to day happenings, including his work, his family life, and his ever-present longing for his wife, Nancy.
In the limited scope of his focus on the support of Latin America, I have read of his visits with the heads of state of many of the Spanish-speaking countries, his National Security Council meetings on the surge of communist ideologies throughout Central America and his actions to help and succor these nation-states therein. After going through his first two years, questions abound in me as to the Presidents true desire and conscious wherewithal to bring concerted focus in representing the United States of America as an actionable brothers keeper’ amongst its latin neighbors.
I question if stringent actions taken then could have assuaged the human exodus that has traveled north into the ‘land of the free’ in seeking financial respite from the closed and imploded economies which rack people in the lower economic stratas of these countries, including Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
- Is it not the duty of the United States to help its neighbors to stand on secure financial footing, given the human exodus immigration we have been dealing with for decades?
- How could have Reagan’s focus and relationship-building that led to real action changed the course of human history so that many of the impoverished people, many of which are indigenous, could have no need to brave entering our frontier ‘mojado’ (on foot over wild terrain, complete with rattle snakes and coyotes)?
- How should have the American people placed pressure on its own government and controlled the political conversation so that true inter-governmental support would have created the ground work for greater degrees of financial independence within the Central and South American countries listed herein?
It so is that the great majority of immigrants are truly indigenous, native american people with limited schooling, poor language skills outside their primary Spanish language and yet, they possess tremendous grit, fortitude and strength to brave the border crossing, find suitable housing and eek out an existence with the dismal hope that things will be better for them, and if men with families, their offspring (who usually reside back home in their resident countries).
Now, far from espousing the widening of our immigration standards to call for a great number of continued peoples with limited schooling to enter the U.S., the purpose of this essay is to bring focus to the action and non-action of our own governmental leaders in the past and how these have helped shaped the course of events that have brought us to the present quagmire.
Do we not have over twenty million undocumented immigrants exacting great pressure on financial resources existent within our towns and cities? Truly, some of these have been here for decades, have raised families of now-American citizen ‘dreamers’ and continue to live in legal limbo with the ever-present fear that they may be exported back to their native lands. Others, have been here days, months or a few years with little to no hope of assimilation, save that they may have offspring as well who well learn the English language and be raised up within our culture. This is the way it is. These are observations on the ground and through my many conversations with scores of immigrants whom live in and around my county of residence. I speak with them and ask the tough questions. We talk of immigration, politics, how things could be and what could have been done long ago by the governments of our countries.
It so is that the Central American countries were known as ‘Banana Republics’ for scores of decades. This implies that these lands were used as farming fields to grow a great wealth of produce that was then purchased by U.S. commercial interests and shipped north. We paid no heed to the governmental machinations that supported the farming and selling of the wholesale produce we enjoyed and there is the crux of the issue. In giving minimal to no moral attention to the political power-structures that orchestrated the farming of the land into the favor of North America, all kinds of cronyism, corruption, and strong-arm political leadership arose which narrow-mindedly allowed the short-term cash structure of wholesale farming to continue to the neglect of the diversification of local economies. What ended up happening is that a small, minority of militant-political leaders became very wealthy and used these countries as their own companies, rather than look about to the balanced development of socio-economic life. The native american populations, as usual, were and are treated as if they are at the very bottom of the cultural and economic ladder. It is these people who have led the exodus to the north over the decades. They are exasperated with the lack of opportunity and flee financial oppression and a lack of practical educational standards which would support diverse economic opportunity.
4. So I ask again, how can we as the United States of America, rectify this situation from herein on out?
5. Should we turn a blind eye and keep talking about immigration as if it is something we ‘deal with’ on this end, even as we do not bring ourselves to look at the causes of such a dilemma?
6. Should we do as Western medicine and only treat (mask) socio-economic symptoms until the malady goes away, or should we deal with the root of the cause?
It comes down to educational opportunity. It means being innovative in bringing dramatically-increased educational standards to towns far away from economic centers within Central and South America. It means going into far-flung lands like Peten in Guatemala, Chiapas in southern Mexico and the rural areas of Nicaragua and El Salvador to bring academics on par with successful American schools. It means bringing economic opportunity to the laborers who are past schooling age and helping them be entrepreneurs of some kind. It means having to sit down with these people, talk with them and create organic solutions that will truly work over the long-term. We need to be our brothers and sisters keeper on such a magnitude that they no longer feel as if there is no hope but to come north, brave the awful crossing of the frontier and scrounge a meager existence within our cities and towns. We need to go to them.
Nothing short of this will work. The job to be done is in setting the conditions within these countries so that the people feel that they can raise families whose children are literate, and savvy in Science, Technology, Arts, Math and yes, Entrepreneurship. We need more than STEAM. We need to get STEAM-E. Entrepreneurship skills bring the acumen to be able to apply the science, the technology, the arts and the math. This kind of well-rounded education can, over time, change the socio-economic realities on the ground in just one generation once effective educational standards are placed into existence across the geography.
For the U.S.A., it would be a win-win situation. Immigration could be stemmed through responsible action. Our ‘soft’ political, cultural and economic influence would expand as a government that is its brothers and sisters keeper in real time. The governments of these Latin American countries would be at our behest due to our humble service to them. The fruit of our labor would show itself according to the degree of the quality of our service to them. American universities should lead the charge, as should teacher colleges. Our own government can work with science and technology corporations to create different fields of educational and industrial influence within sectors of each country. Just like India has grown to be a technological powerhouse, so can the rural lands of Central and South America be empowered to chart out their own destiny. Rather than force them into certain pathways, we can create concrete educational systems that seamlessly interwove their culture. We need not go a step further to make them be like us and think like us. We just have to give them the educational and economic opportunities to manifest their own destiny.
In this way we curtail northern immigration, win hearts and minds and stave off economic and political turmoil in these countries, such as Reagan encountered with the rise of Central American military leaders just a few decades back. Is it not a worthwhile education how we best address poverty?