El Salvador Survivors

20% of El Salvador’s GNP comes in the form of US dollars sent back to El Salvador by family members who have made the long journey to the USA to find work.

16% of the population of El Salvador live in extreme poverty. This means they live on less than $1.00 a day. We’re talking a shack with a dirt floor with no sewage, running water, trash collection or electricity.

The per capita income is $2,450.00 a year. This compares to the highest ranking country: Norway at $60,000.00 and the lowest: Burundi at $100.00. However, while $2,450.00 is the per capita income this isn’t what each person gets. In El Salvador the richest 1/5 of the population receive 45% of the countries income while the poorest 1/5 get just 5.6% of the country’s income. That means most of the people live on considerably less than $2,450.00 per year.

So if you’re poor and you want to get into America to find work you make the long journey overland through Guatamala and Mexico to try to sneak across the border. It costs about $5,000.00 to make this trip. This is way more than two year’s earnings for you. You have to pay guides to get you across the border into America. To take this journey you risk your life. Some of the guides take your money and leave you in a truck jammed full of other unfortunate souls in the middle of the desert where you dare not utter a peep for fear of getting caught, and eventually you and your friends cook in the heat and die of starvation and thirst.

If you do make it across the border you have to find work yourself. The only way to see your family ever again is to risk your life and make the same overland journey in reverse. Then, guess what? If you want to sneak back into America for work you make the journey again.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12564684437473178371 Scott Lyons

    This is the missing element in many of the discussions concerning our immigration woes – compassion. The whole “welcoming the foreigner and stranger” bit seems to me to be the heart of God, and it seems as if we’ve lost it.

  • Louise

    Father, is there nothing that can be done, no international pressure that can be brought to bear, on countries such as Mexico, El Salvado, Guatemala, etc. to force them to open their economies, to encourage local businesses, to create jobs with living wages so that these unfortunate people don’t have to travel 1,000 miles or more in horrendous, life-threantening conditions, to leave their families, to find jobs? Wouldn’t that be the best long-term solution? Countries so rich in natural resources, natural beauty, and agricultural resources should not have unemployed, poverty-stricken people. It may be simplistic to think so, but it seems logical to me that the best solution would be to develop the country so as to bring the money to the people in investment, tourism, etc., rather than having to send the people, at the risk of life and limb, to the money. What is the incentive for such contries to develop their own economies and enrich their own people as long as there is a safety valve to the north relieving the pressure on those governments to provide improved standards of living?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Louise, the situation is very complex. In El Salvador you have a wealthy landowning aristocracy who do not have it in their interests to invest in the country, then the country is competing with multinational corporations for the few cash crops they have. For instance, if the El Salvadoreans put up the price of their coffee the big coffee buyers in the US simply develop an even poorer country to grow their coffee and then the price in El Salvador collapses. It’s more complicated than I can figure out.

  • Louise

    “It’s more complicated than I can figure out.”Yes, Father, and I’m afraid that it is more complicated than anyone can figure out, and, in the meantime, human lives are at stake and/or are suffering intolerable conditions at home and on the road, to say nothing of the social instability that the receiving country experiences. The United States is a very large country and it can absorb a great many people and their problems, but eventually there will be a limit even to ITS resources. There has got to be a better solution than mass migration, especially when that migration leads to the breakup of families and cultures and social networks, and turns good people into law breakers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08110491371985845560 Apostolic Anchoress / Rowena Hullfire

    And, consider this re the immigration proposals. If Juan is here working even for low wages, and he sends money back home, that money can buy a lot more back home compared to here. It can support the family. That area is humble and not ostentatious, so there is no pressure to keep up with the joneses.However, if the whole family comes here, Juan’s earnings cannot support them in a more expensive economy. Plus, they are in a competitively ostentatious culture which makes them feel poor for the first time in their lives.Perhaps the numbers are such that they’re forced to go on welfare, which is a trap that keeps people down. You’ve destroyed a decent family and they’ll reap the costs of that for years.Perhaps legalizing a guest worker program, so the families can stay in their homeland and culture, is less disruptive to them overall and doesn’t destroy them in our greedier culture.Take the desert deaths and desperation out of the process, make it legal, keep out the felons because we’re regulating who comes, and still don’t end up putting tens of millions of people on welfare–which would not be a happy outcome for current taxpayers.

  • Anonymous

    More often than not, this type of discussion goes from the specifics of a family-in-need to the general of US Immigration Policy, just as this thread has done. Jesus was always concerned with specific individual needs while He walked the earth & He was very very clear that’s what He expects from us too. In fact, that’s the question on the final exam (cf Mt 25). When we stand before Him, it just won’t do to say something like “Well, no, I didn’t send $1/day to help them because of the screwed up immigration laws” or “They should’ve developed their own economy better” etc.

  • Louise

    “When we stand before Him, it just won’t do to say something like “Well, no, I didn’t send $1/day to help them because of the screwed up immigration laws” or “They should’ve developed their own economy better” etc”Dear Anon, One does not preclude the other. I do send money to overseas missions, in some case directly to the mission, and in othercases through agencies such as Food for the Poor or CRS, and in some cases to the needs of an individual in a mission. However, there is a macro as well as a micro concern. There is a concern for what is best for a country as a whole as well as a concern for each individual whose life is affected by national policy. I cannot affect the macro picture. However, by talking through a situation, by hearing different sides from compassionate Christian people, I might be able to understand better how to help or how to lend my support without overlooking the needs or concerns of either side of the debate. Does this have to be a zero sum game? Individuals on this side of the border are being adversely affected through crime, disease, destruction of property, the overburdening of public institutions, the suppression of wages, just as individuals on the other side are being adversely affected by poverty, injustice, the lack of life-sustaining work, the break-up of families, the lack of social support services, etc. Just and compassionate solutions must be just and compassionate for all parties, not one at the expense of the other. So, while I’m writing the check, I can also think hard about how to respond for the long term and for the short term solutions, for the macro and for the micro aspects of both individual and mass migration. I hope can, too.


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