Remittances and Migrants

No matter what it’s for, 50 billion dollars is a very large sum. And when it is the amount of money that migrants have sent home  to their families in Mexico, it is astounding. Migrants in this case include legal  as well as undocumented. The amount has surged during Covid, and the total for 2021 is expected—not all tallied yet—to pass $50 billion. Mexico is one of three countries along with China and India where total  remittances are large enough to be a part of the economy. In 2020 those remittances represented 3.8% of the Mexican GDP and the percentage of households  it reached was 5.1%. Bearing in mind that the people sending these remittances are often not high earners and the total is even more astounding.  It evokes people making sacrifices for their family, enduring deprivations  to share what they have. It means living in cramped quarters and foregoing little luxuries, or perhaps even something that’s a need. The money sent home usually goes for necessities, such as food and medical expenses. It also goes for items  like a refrigerator, an appliance that actually helps people save money on food. Placed in context the existence of remittances is not a fact that is without issues, how long can sending remittances last? Or when will Mexico no longer be dependent upon them?  Adding to the poignancy of remittances is also the fact that many of the families live in violence prone areas of the country and have to be very careful not to let it be known they receive money. They could then be prey for gangs and be kidnapped for ransom. Regardless of these issues, or perhaps even more so because of them, what jumps out to someone like me is the sheer goodness of the people behind the remittances, people who put their families first, people who undergo hardships to share what they have, people who are courageous, devoted, resilient, people we should honor a lot more than we do.

Helping Refugees In Poland

The situation between Belarus and Poland is a complicated one, and the conditions of migrants from Belarus trying to enter the EU via Poland is even more so. Yet this complex political chess game forms the background for what I want to share,  an example of human courage and solidarity. In this case one where poles are risking their lives to help the migrants. The article in The Guardian  used fake names to protect them. Jakub, 38 has helped and hidden about 200 migrants. Others have too. They do not compare it to the Holocaust, but are aware of the parallels and inspired by the fact that many poles hid Jewish children. Jakub’s uncle was among those, so to him doing what he does is personal. The Polish authorities could arrest them because helping migrants is illegal. Regardless, people like Jakub roam the woods looking for signs of life such as discarded nappies or huts made from tree branches, bringing water, food, the offer of shelter. It’s dangerous for the migrants too. If caught they are sent back to the sub- zero temperature forest.  They are all courageous, and show us that courage is not only for heroes.

We have  come to have this negative picture of human nature, and of course we are all flawed. Still, because this picture is reinforced by so many films, computer games, cartoons and the like, we forget the other side, our better angels or whatever terms anyone wants to use. But it is that other side that helps us go forward, so when I encounter it I want to highlight it.  That’s why what Jakub and those like him are doing in Poland is worth knowing about. They remind us that humans are more than their down side.

Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez

Dear Carlos. There’s unfairness and tragedy in the way you died, at 16 in a holding cell at a border patrol station in Weslaco, alone since family separation policies took you from the older sister you came to the US with. You’re the sixth minor to die in custody. Like them you shouldn’t have died. You had the flu and your fever reached 103 and yet instead of sending you to emergency they put you in a cell with another sick boy so you wouldn’t contaminate others. The guards were supposed to check on you per the orders of the nurse practitioner who had seen you but didn’t. There are a lot of irregularities that have and will continue to surface as a result of your death. Already border patrol agents have been ordered not to rely on video to check on someone who is sick, but need to go in and see for themselves and take their temperature. You wanted to come to the US to be with your older brother who is here and works in construction. You didn’t make it, you didn’t get to see the joyful side of life, you didn’t get to experience love except from your family. But you accomplished a lot you didn’t expect to accomplish. ProPublica wrote a long article about you and through it hopefully through other such articles and the press it generated you are becoming an example and a symbol of how we treat minors at the border, and because of that, maybe things will change more than just ordering agents go into cells to check on those who are ailing. On behalf of all those who will end up benefiting from your short life, I want to thank you. I am sure that doesn’t make up for the loss you are to your parents and siblings, but even they would feel gratified by what amounts to a sacrificial life. Your death contributes to putting our system of treating migrants and refugees to shame, and that’s why to me at least it was not in vain.

Hail The Caravan

As an immigrant I know what it’s like to leave all you know for the unknown. We had visas, we weren’t penniless, we flew to the US and regardless I felt fear.  When you emigrate everything familiar is gone and you don’t know how it will be replaced, nor do you know what will happen next. I heard and read about the caravan from Central America and I  can’t help thinking about those courageous people who are willing to walk  a couple of thousand  miles or more in search of some safety, in search for some opportunities out of assured poverty and violence, in search of  better lives for their families. They banded together to avoid the criminals who prey on migrants, Continue reading “Hail The Caravan”