Texas economy

A broken immigration system is creating a ‘death economy’

Our friend, a pastor who serves migrants along the Texas-Mexico border, was kidnapped in June by a drug cartel and held for $40,000 ransom. For the past five years, he has delivered food to the people of Nuevo Laredo. He does this for free, thanks to the generous support of our church and groups like Fellowship Southwest.

Our friend was kidnapped because the cartel thought he was taking money from migrants and posing a threat to their business. Although they released him after finding out he hadn’t taken money from the people he served, his story reflects a larger tragedy. Our immigration system has created an economy of death at the border. And it’s spreading inland.

Cartels prey on vulnerable populations, creating a cycle of fear and violence. Many people who seek asylum flee for their lives, only to find they are trading one horror for another.

The horrific death of more than 50 people inside a trailer in San Antonio is a symptom of a dysfunctional immigration system. Our system creates the conditions in which vulnerable people are placed in even more vulnerable situations that lead to tragedy.

At a time when our country urgently needs more workers, our system makes it nearly impossible for many people to immigrate legally. As a result, desperate people are risking their well-being at the hands of profit-driven smugglers.

Much of our public dialogue on immigration deliberately ignores the complexity of these issues. We need less heat in these conversations. Our policies must reflect the compassion our nation wants to be known for.

Moreover, the deaths of individuals at the hands of smugglers are not the result of an “open borders” policy, but rather evidence of an employment-based visa system that is woefully out of sync with the labor market. American work.

A bipartisan bill already passed in the House of Representatives, the Agricultural Workforce Modernization Act, or FWMA, would ease pressure at the border by increasing access to employer-sponsored visas for agricultural workers.

My grandfathers (from Patty) entered the country through the Mexican Agricultural Labor Agreement, which established the Bracero program during World War II. One worked to build railroads and infrastructure in San Antonio. The other owned a small business on the West Side. My family is made up of hardworking tías and tíos whose children, my cousins, have had careers in the military, education, religious ministries, and other livelihoods that help improve this country.

As a career social worker, I have worked, loved, and taught alongside many individuals and families directly affected by an ever-changing immigration system. They came to this country for a better life for their children, a safe environment with opportunities to support their families and pursue their dreams. Yes, they missed the familiarity of their home country, but due to the threat of violence or extreme poverty, they made dangerous and expensive journeys.

The Bracero program provided a clear process for Mexican workers to work in American industries. Now, without such a process, migrants resort to dangerous journeys with smugglers, and the response from some Americans is “just wait in line and wait their turn.” However, what to do when there is no line?

Passage of the FWMA would provide migrants with a clear and safe path to address labor shortages in the United States, particularly in agriculture.

We are grateful that U.S. Senator John Cornyn is leading an effort to find bipartisan consensus to advance immigration legislation, just as he did recently in pushing gun safety legislation through Congress. We pray that he and other senators from both parties move forward quickly – to prevent further senseless tragedies on our border.

Garrett Vickrey is the senior pastor of Woodland Baptist Church. Patty Villarreal is an adjunct social work teacher at Baptist University of the Americas.