Notice Venezuela

We have all watched and been appalled at the Syrian refugee crisis – children dead in the arms of rescuing sailors, families streaming across Europe, desperate to find a future, and political upheaval over the influx of racially unwanted immigrants (legal or otherwise). So what? You may be thinking. That’s only over in Europe, nothing to do with us here in the good ‘ole USA. Right? Wrong. Refugee crises are here and are coming like never before. Before winter we’re going to have a refugee crisis on our border the likes of which we’re totally unprepared for.

Since Jan. 1 of this year, yes, just this year, 547,000 Venezuelans have fled their country into Columbia and then onto Ecuador. Of those, 75 percent are women and children. And this influx is accelerating. Thousands of these refugees used to work for U.S. companies and have old USA visas they want to renew...

UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler noted, “Many of the Venezuelans are moving on foot, in an odyssey of days and even weeks in precarious conditions,” he said. “Many run out of resources to continue their journey, and are left destitute — forced to live rough in public parks and resort to begging... in order to meet their daily needs .... The majority of the Venezuelans entering Ecuador continue onwards to Peru and Chile — hoping one day making their way north ...” to the United States. The time for travel? Estimated at four months before reaching our border. “Up to 20 percent, however, remain in the country of Ecuador ... since 2016.” Of the half million this year alone, more than 30 percent have relatives outside of Venezuela who will be able to help finance their migration — legal or otherwise.

And in case anyone thinks these refugees are planning to return home anytime soon ... UN Migration Agency, IOM, reports there has been a 900 percent increase in Venezuelan nationals permanently settled abroad on the subcontinent from 2015 to 2017 – up from 89,000 to 900,000. And worldwide, the number has risen from 700,000 to more than 1.6 million in the same period.

South of Venezuela, in Brazil, the doors have been opened again. And Mexico too has said it can give temporary passage to as many as 200,000 a year under an asylum measure passed through the courts there.  Mexico border crossings into the United States have recently started to rise again after years of declining. In May alone U.S. border agents arrested 50,000 illegal crossers, but the number was down again in June and July (when people perish in the summer heat). Canada cross-border excursions into the USA are up from 400 a day to 1,000 (although these seem to be balanced by people leaving the USA).

Many Venezuelans who are leaving their country are better educated, middle class, trained people and families. They have intellect and resources to find a way to safety. Exactly like the Syrian refugees, these are not your typical huddled masses, but determined, headstrong refugees desperate to find a new home.

What could they bring to America? The same thing talented, desperate people have always brought. Same as the Irish, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese and other educated peoples who have come here before. The problem is, we used to recognize that benefit, now we dismiss our heritage of immigrant welcome in favor of walls, barriers, and turning a blind eye. That’s a mistake. A costly one for all concerned.

Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.