Whether you chant “Build the wall!,” support sanctuary cities or lie anywhere in between on the issue of illegal immigration, you have to know that there’s no simple fix or magic bullet that solves most problems, especially one this complicated.
But no matter where you stand on this issue, here’s something we likely can all agree on: If folks are perfectly happy at home — wherever that may be — they probably will not want to leave. They certainly wouldn’t want to embark upon a treacherous journey full of unknowns to sneak into the United States if their home is safe and they enjoy a comfortable life with security and hope for their children.
Time and time again, I’ve seen families move from shacks to decent homes through my work with The Fuller Center for Housing. And I’ve met people like my friend Ana (pictured above), who discovered a world of new opportunities and joy at home after partnering to build a decent house. In fact, my assistant Jessica (who speaks Spanish, while I merely know how to order in a Mexican restaurant) talked with a woman in El Salvador who completely scrapped her plans to sneak into the U.S. after getting a decent home. You can read about it here.
Years ago, Ana was moving from various rented rooms to another, battling crooked landlords and selling school supplies on the streets of Lima, Peru, while trying to raise her three children. On a hope and a prayer, she boarded a bus for La Florida, Peru, where The Fuller Center is building a healthy, thriving community. Not only did she wind up partnering with us to build a home for her children, but she began working for The Fuller Center and then was elected mayor of the town. Now, she is a government official working nonstop to better the lives of Peruvians.
I also think of Cyndi, a little girl in Las Peñitas, Nicaragua, whose family became our first homeowner partners in the country. I first met her two years ago on my first trip to Nicaragua and asked this sweet, smiling little girl what she liked most about the new Fuller Center home that replaced her family’s tin and plastic shack. She replied: “Tiene paredes y una puerta.”
Translation: “It has walls and a door.”
Worries about terrorists, drug smugglers and criminal elements sneaking into our country are legitimate. But the overwhelming majority of folks who come to our country are merely seeking the kinds of basic necessities we take for granted, like having walls and a door. If you’re reading this right now, I suspect that every home in which you’ve lived likely has those — maybe even a few doors.
Wall or no wall, the most efficient and effective way to stop illegal immigration is at its source — by helping people help themselves and by building a better world at home, in their own backyard. It might even be a bit cheaper.
Oh, by the way, Ana did finally make it to the United States. I met her in Minden, Louisiana — she was there for a few days building homes for American families in need of a similar hand-up. I hope you’ll take a moment to hear Ana in her own words, captured on video by some of our student builders from UCLA who visited her home during a volunteer trip to La Florida, Peru, a few years ago. It’s a short video, but you can see what an emotional turnaround Ana has experienced in her life.