Kathy Walters: Immigration crisis is solvable
Frankly, this illegal immigration crisis at the US/Mexican border is a blessing. As with many crises — global or personal — they become opportunities to grow and that’s a blessing. Often our immediate reaction is to do what it takes to make a crisis go away, such as the $37 million tent camp just built at the border. Fortunately, with illegal immigration, much is obvious and we can no longer afford to look the other way. We must face both the facts and our responsibility.
One of the major forces driving migrants to the border is climate change and its disastrous effect in Central America. Yes, some migrants are asylum seekers fleeing gangs, abject poverty and governmental neglect or persecution. But these social hardships are further compounded by severe and erratic weather patterns — droughts, extreme temperature changes, or too much rain. Many in Central America can no longer survive off of the land.
From our side of the border, we see a flood of migrants pressed up against the fence wanting in. We feel overwhelmed, threatened and perhaps unable to relate, and thus ignore the facts: by spewing carbon dioxide into the skies faster than most any other country, and all in the pursuit of affluence and economic well-being, we’ve created this crisis. We’re the ones driving the poor to our borders. All because we don’t want to, or are unwilling to, look far enough into the future and take responsibility for our misguided belief: affluence doesn’t create or increase well-being. Our hunger for affluence will only escalate this crisis and many others unless we shift our beliefs about what causes us to feel happy, safe and prosperous.
Granted, researchers have long said for a family earning below an annual income of $65,000 per year, additional income will increase happiness. But it’s also well-proven our greatest source of happiness comes from helping others. It’s pleasurable to contribute with others toward the world we want to live in. When we create bonds with others and within our community, we deepen our sense of shared fate and naturally take action toward social change and a globally just society. Having a vision is key, but experiencing emotional vulnerability is the well-spring to this vision.
Recently, I had a personal crisis that has helped me to understand this. About a year ago, I had an argument with a dear friend that led to a significant rift. For months we were distant; likely we both felt slighted, at least I know I did. Finally, though, after some deep soul-searching, I realized how I had been responsible, how I had looked to her for my needs rather than to myself, and I envisioned a much more mature friendship with me making the needed changes. One day on the phone I told her all this. At the time, I felt deeply humiliated, more humble than I’d felt in quite some time. But my ensuing and immediate sense of well-being was, and continues to be, tremendous.
The illegal immigration crisis is showing us Americans an opportunity to be humble. What if we were able to say to each other, to the tented immigrants, and to the rest of the world: “We see how our misguided pursuit of affluence has and will continue to erode everyone’s well-being and we feel responsible.” At first, because it threatens our beliefs, we might feel too vulnerable and uncertain to lead with this level of honesty. But we can’t afford not to.
Of course, in the short term, we need to increase immigration funding, build bigger facilities to house immigrants, expedite immigrants seeking asylum, and provide more funding to Third World countries to help alleviate their hardships. But given that our planet is heating up, resources are being depleted, and thousands of species and entire ecosystems are disappearing, we must be honest — well-being is emotional not materialistic.
The immigration crisis is solvable. We need to open our eyes to personal changes we may have never considered and being humble is the first step.
Kathy Walters is the mother of a teenage boy. She works for Kirkwood Mountain Realty and lives in Gardnerville.