I regularly read or hear that the immigrants and refugees at our borders are “seeking a better life” in America. That could be so for some, but for the majority, they really are just seeking life, a condition opposite to that of dying, i.e they are seeking to not die. 

It is an incredible conceit of exceptionalism that America offers a “better life” to these people. On the Left, politicians propose that we should grant the better life. On the Right, politicians jealously hoard it and wish to deny the better life to these strangers, especially because they are brown and not from Norway. 

However, if you have ever lived in a remote village, surrounded by forest, rich with fruit trees, solid (albeit humble) homemade houses, gardens, fields, animals, complex and satisfying social structures, i.e great-grandparents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, you would envy that life, compare it to Paradise, and want to live there. Compare that life with the sterility of suburbs and shopping centers and dollar-chasing that we have exchanged in the interest of progress. People can be happy there. 

That is, until the soldiers come, or the drug cartels, or the drought, or too-cheap American corn (NAFTA, CAFTA). Then, the people rightly flee for their lives and those who have heard of the beneficence and prosperity of the North, undertake the long journey. 

When I lived in Mexico, all the clever young men would make their way to the fields, yards, or construction sites in California or Texas, work a season, then return home with a nest egg to build a house and start a family. It was a rite of passage; they all did it. Years later, however, the border got more controlled, so they stayed north rather than return. In the '90s, NAFTA came into effect and the stores were flooded with cheap corn. The old CONASUPO corn cooperatives went out of business, and the farmers had no market.

Rather than starve, they went north, families and all. Guatemala and El Salvador were different. There was civil war, very much directed against the indigenous peoples (Indians) whose major fault was resisting progress and preserving their ancient, cooperative ways. So, they fled north. Finally, in the last few years, due to a coup in Honduras, conditions became horribly chaotic with lots of murders, drugs, and other evils. In this case, even children began to head North. 

So, why do you suppose that these people keep heading north when the border is so unwelcoming? I believe that these people intuitively understand that the evil that has destroyed their communities has a source, a cause, so they head north to meet their destroyer, to confront it. Actions have consequences; so the immigrants and refugees say, “Here I am. I am the consequence of what you did, so you could have your cheap bananas, cheap auto parts, cheap clothing, marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. Accept me or watch me die. Your choice.”

Ted Tripp

S/V Sunrise, Apalachicola