Let me tell you about my friend, Genaro. He’s from Guatemala. He works with me at a hotel on Fort Myers Beach, FL. Four years ago, he and his brother refused to cooperate with the cartel. They killed his brother and his 5 year old nephew. Genaro and his sister-in-law fled for their lives. They made their way up through Mexico, sometimes on cheap buses, or hitchhiking or walking. It took them 10 months. When they arrived at the U.S. border, they were put in a detention camp for 7 months and finally granted asylum as refugees.
He is one of the best and hardest workers you will ever meet. He cleans and paints with care and energy. And despite all his trials and problems and all that he has been through, he has a smiling disposition and positive attitude. His odyssey would have broken most Americans. He is a joy to be around when we work together as a team. He speaks two languages (Spanish and his indigenous tongue – a Mayan dialect) and is learning a third (English). A sweet and gentle soul – that’s Genaro and I’m proud to call him my friend and compadre.
This is the kind of person that is knocking on our southern border, asking to come in. They are men and women in crisis, who have left situations of terror and fear and desperation. They see the U.S. as a beacon of freedom and hope and a new life. They are willing to travel great distances under duress and work hard and learn a new language when they get here. If we will only give them the chance. Go meet these people yourself. Learn first hand what they’ve been through and how they just want a chance to live in freedom and peace. They don’t want welfare (though they will gladly accept used clothing, etc.); they want to work. They have more guts and determination than you and I put together. They do not deserve derision, demonization or rejection. These good people deserve our support, compassion and encouragement.
Greg “Goyo” Plimpton served as a PCV and PCVC in the water and sanitation sector in Peru (2011-2014) and did 3 Response services (2015-2018) in Panama. He is now the director of RPCV Global Village, a non-profit that brings RPCVs to SW Florida, where they can serve the local immigrant farm worker populations. www.rpcvglobalvillage.org