The painful face of migration

by Carlos Ayala Ramirez

El rostro doloroso de la migración

Again the news of the “tragic election”. On the afternoon of June 23, salvadorans Oscar Alberto Martínez, twenty-five, and their daughter Valeria, a year and eleven months old, lost their lives while trying to cross the Bravo River in Matamoros City of Tamaulipas State, Mexico. The mother of the little girl, Tania Ovalos, who also accompanied them, saved her life, because one person rescued her, however, she pressed the tragic scene. This family came to Tamaulipas to seek asylum in the United States and after two months of fruitless waiting, at Camp Puerta México, they decided to cross the Bravo River connecting Mexico to Brownsville, Texas, UNITED States.
The cause of her emigration was precisely explained by Oscar’s mother: “They wanted to have their own home. He told me that with the salary he earned here, he couldn’t live, that’s why they chose to leave.” The United Nations human development reports, when addressing the drama of migration, use the term “tragic choice.” It points to the fact that a person or family is pressured or forced to change their place of residence because their physical integrity or safety is threatened by economic precariousness or widespread violence. It is a difficult decision, conceived as the last option of the desperate, that is made when there are no alternatives anymore. It is also a tragic choice because of the dangers posed by a journey in undocumented conditions.
Consequently, the concept refers to the reality of a population that sees its rights violated both in its country of origin and in those of transit and destination. From a human rights perspective, it should be recalled that, regardless of immigration status, migrants are first and foremosm people who possess a dignity that must be respected and protected. In the face of technical speeches, political peroratas or anti-immigrant measures, the strength of the obvious is now imposed again: a girl who dies with her father, seeking a better life. His sleep was minimal: a decent roof, stable work and guaranteeing daily bread. This tragedy, which has been present in the media and will probably disappear in weeks, must be a strong call to human decency that begins with “suffering with the victims.”
Pope Francis, in his message for World Migrant Day 2019, recalled that the most sensitive expression of our humanity is the compassion that leads to being close to those we see in difficulty. And he reiterated that feeling compassion means recognizing each other’s suffering and immediately moving into action to alleviate, heal, and save. It means giving space to the tenderness that today’s society often asks us to suppress. It is therefore an essential attitude that leads us to action. It’s not a calming, passing feeling.
Of course, compassion understood as active and committed behavior, triggered by the suffering of others, requires a sensitive heart to capture the legitimate needs of the most vulnerable groups and reach agreements that transform their reality. In this line, Pope Francis has called for not to remain in technical analysis or political controversy, but to seek and concrete solutions. For the Holy Father, they are going through establishing medium- and long-term plans that do not stay in the simple response to an emergency. It involves setting priorities such as integrating migrants into the countries receiving them and developing aid to countries of origin. In this sense, the three actions proposed by the Pope are strategic: preventing human trafficking (investing in people); protect victims (accompanying them, serving them, defending them); prosecuting criminals (establishing policies to prosecute cases of illicit trafficking in persons).
It is a fact that President Trump’s policies, aimed at erecting a wall, deporting massively, ending sanctuary cities, repealing laws that protect against deportation, suspending policies that protect the migrant, among others, have failed to curb large-scale emigration from Central American countries. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), nearly 400,000 Undocumented Central Americans cross Mexican territory each year to reach the United States. But this year, between January and March, it is estimated that more than 300,000 people have already crossed Mexico’s southern border irregularly.
However, when you migrate from poverty – such as Oscar and his family – the aversion to migrants is no longer a rejection of the foreigner (xenophobia). It’s rejection of poor people. Hence the term coined: “aporophobia”. Faced with the painful face of forced emigration that strikes majority, looks with repudiation, fear and contempt, a change of perspective becomes imperative, which changes hostility for hospitality to the poor foreigner, that unifies compassion and justice. Building a just, inclusive and compassionate society is a sign of human progress. Victims and impoverished demand it. And from Christian inspiration let us remember that, according to the Gospel of Matthew, there are two ways to react to those who suffer: we sympathize and help them or neglect and abandon them. “Come blessed from my Father, for I was an emigrant and received me …”. Or, on the contrary: “Get away from me, you bastards, because I was an emigrant and I wasn’t received.” Compassionates are the ones who pass the decisive subject of the human. Ω

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