The vast majority of migrants leave their homes, their families and their communities because of violence. Sometimes that violence is outright war, as has been happening in Syria. Other times, it is state-sponsored aggression and violent oppression, as with the Rohingya people of Myanmar. In Mexico and Central America, people are often caught in the deadly crossfire of narcotrafficking and the ill-fated “War on Drugs.”
And all too often, greedy and violent people take advantage of chaos — whatever the original source — to drive people from their lands at the point of a gun. Our government’s response is typically more military aid and training that makes the situation worse. For example, many drug gangs include former members of Latin American special forces originally trained by the US military. Violence combines with exploitative market forces to rob smallholder farmers of the ability to feed their children. Mega dam projects and destructive mining led by multinational companies steal land and water from farmers in the Global South. Meanwhile, mechanized, industrial farming has replaced subsistence farming with cash crops, while displacing small farmers, leaving them landless and hungry. It’s no surprise then, that people are pulled toward the false hope of opportunities in the US, Europe and elsewhere. Agribusiness and capitalist labor markets are all too willing to exploit the labor of these migrants, paying them slave wages and treating them as if they don’t have rights.
- The United Nations counts more than 200 million people as migrants worldwide.
- In the US, there are as many as 2.5 million migrant farmworkers.
– The average farmworker earns less than $6,000 per year.
– Four out of five have no employer-provided health insurance in one of the most dangerous industries.
– Most are young, married, foreign-born males, but as many as 100,000 children as young as 10 are working illegally on US farms.
If you listen to the people who are forced to flee their homes, they don’t ask for more military or capitalist economic development. They want an end to violence. They want land reform to protect the homes and farms they have, as well as a return of land taken from them. They want training to learn more effective and sustainable farming techniques. They want protection of their individual human rights, and they want the ability to organize and win representative democratic governance. And they want infrastructure to support their communities — including schools, clinics and other public services.
For 35 years, generous Grassroots International donors have supported these heroic efforts to resist violence and exploitation. This work is the real solution to the issue of migrants. It doesn’t build walls. It doesn’t jail tired, hungry and frightened men, women and children. It contributes to a better world by restoring the right of the affected people to create their own solutions.
Here are a few ways we are putting donor generosity to work:
- You support Mixe Peoples Services (SER Mixe), an Indigenous organization serving more than 130,000 people in 30 communities in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. SER Mixe provides organizing and conflict resolution skill-building, as well as legal assistance to build community-based mechanisms to protect land, territory and natural resources.
- Another Grassroots International partner, The Peasant Unity Committee (CUC), works in over 200 communities facing displacement or environmental damage by mining, dam and industrial agriculture corporations in Guatemala. CUC empowers impoverished women, men and youth leaders to defend land, water and food rights through organizing, political education, agroecology training, advocacy and alliance-building to advance rural development with gender equity.
- The Stop the Wall Campaign is a coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations to mobilize efforts on local, national and international levels to stop and dismantle the Wall in the West Bank. They also resist Israeli occupation and defend Palestinian communities’ rights to their land and water. For example, they are suing to stop the Israeli water utility company Mekorot from stealing water rights from Palestinians.
Walls are not the Answer
Walls are not the answer. Not in the Middle East, and not in the United States, either. When we focus on improving lives wherever people live, we move towards a safer, more prosperous world for all. Without walls!