The United States Customs and Border Protection office just launched a million-dollar ad campaign targeted at Central American countries like Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvadaor. The campaign includes billboard signs and around 6,500 public service announcements for radio and TV in the target countries.
But the pride and joy of the campaign is this creep-tastic ad, set to air in the aforementioned areas:
If you don’t speak Spanish (like me), here’s what happens, according to Business Insider:
[A] teenage boy is seen writing a letter to his uncle that describes the dangers his mother says will await him if he tries to cross the border — gangs, kidnappers, and a grueling journey across the desert. Still, the boy tells his uncle the money he can earn in the U.S. is worth the risk. Here, he says goodbye to his mother. Suddenly, the ad cuts to a shot of the boy’s lifeless body in an empty dessert.
That line at the end? “They are our future. Protect them.” Wonderful.
What are the dangers of immigrating, particularly illegally, to America? According to the AP, about 226 immigrants have died crossing the border in the past 9 months. Compare that with the over 52,000 children that have been detained for successfully making it to the U.S. in South Texas alone.
While I am sure that there are many dangers to entering the United States illegally, they pale in comparison (and likelihood) to the potential rewards if an immigrant makes it. In many of these countries, desperate poverty and gang violence are a part of their daily lives. An escape from that—and the chance to help one’s family who couldn’t emigrate—would be worth the .43% chance of dying while crossing to me.
Perhaps unintentionally, the U.S. Customs office has painted in its video exactly why so many immigrants make the journey to the United States, despite the supposed chance of dying. The boy says, in a letter to his uncle “He who doesn’t take a chance, doesn’t win.” For many immigrants coming from Central America, that win includes a life that is so much better than what they left behind.
If U.S. Customs really cared about the poor Central American children who may (but probably won’t) die crossing the border,* it should focus their efforts on making immigration easier for them, not trying to keep them away. And if it’s so xenophobic that it doesn’t want Central Americans coming here, the United States government should focus on eliminating the policies it has that make life in Central America worth risking death to escape.
But, in reality, we should be welcoming to immigrants, who bolster our economy and add to the strength and diversity that make America great. There is more truth than Americans are likely comfortable with when the ad says, “They are our future.” Immigrants are America’s future, and it’s time we started accepting that.
*To be sure, they don’t actually care.