Migrants: unappreciated, hardworking, and needed

Submitted by: Tony Magliano

You may have recently heard news that a fully loaded container ship plowed into a U.S. bridge in the Baltimore harbor causing its collapse into the Patapsco River. But what made this bad news story a tragic story, was that six migrants who were working the night shift, filling potholes and performing other needed maintenance work on the bridge, plunged to their deaths.

Having grown up in Baltimore, this story naturally caught my attention, but what caught my heart was the reminder of how much we need migrants, and yet, how unjustly they are often treated, not only in Baltimore, but in many other places around the world.

One of those other places is at the Mexico-U.S. border where thousands of poor, persecuted migrants face a changing array of U.S. federal and state obstacles.

Recently I spoke with Ruben Garcia, founder and director of Annunciation House, an El Paso, Texas, Gospel-based Catholic ministry serving migrants, refugees and economically vulnerable people along the U.S-Mexico border – a ministry that Texas’ Attorney General Ken Paxton is trying shut down (see: https://elpasomatters.org/2024/03/11/el-paso-annunciation-house-ken-paxton-court-ruling/).

Garcia explained to me that since the undocumented have no legal status in the United States, they are forced to take undesirable, poorly paid jobs, which offer no benefits. Unlike poor U.S. citizens, undocumented workers and their families cannot receive food stamps, Medicaid, or housing assistance. They are at the lowest rung of American life.

So why do they come? They come because most often they and their families are extremely poor, and they cannot find jobs in their native countries that pay a living wage. And that the U.S. has many more low-skilled jobs than there are Americans who are willing to take them. And many others come to escape death threats from drug gangs and other violent conflicts.

But why don’t they enter legally? Because the wait for legal entry is usually well over 15 years – if ever. Also, there are too few low-skilled worker visas available. Garcia said the national government needs to issue far more low-skilled worker visas every year.

Garcia said that 46 years ago when he founded Annunciation House, he asked new migrants why they were fleeing their home countries and seeking entry into the U.S. And he repeatedly heard two answers: They were fearful of living in their native countries. And there was no way they could feed their families. Today, after 46 years, when he asks the same question to migrants, he hears the very same answers: fear and hunger (see: https://annunciationhouse.org/about/).

It is obvious we are not seriously committed to fixing this human migration crisis.

So, let’s get serious!

The U.S. and other wealthier nations need to mount massive, non-militarized efforts to address and finally solve the root causes of migration – drug gangs, dirt-poor poverty, corrupt leaders, economic colonialism, corporate injustices like sweatshops, wars, armed civil conflicts, effects of climate change, and religious persecution – that drive migrants to leave their homes, travel long and dangerous routes to strange countries only to face high walls and sharp razor-wire which screams at them: “You are not wanted! Go back to where you came from!”

“You say what? You want us to go back to all of that!”

With politicians talking tough against migrants, it is essential that readers in the U.S., email and call (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) your two U.S. senators and representative urging them to pass long overdue fair, compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year.

Lord Jesus, heal our indifference, and inspire us to welcome these strangers as valuable members of your one human family, so that on the Day of Judgment we may gladly hear you say, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

About the Author

Tony Magliano is not a member of the AUSCP. He is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag6@comcast.net.

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