Baltazar Acevedo y Arispe, Jr.
Baltazar Acevedo y Arispe, Jr.

CHIMAYO, New Mexico – While I was driving through the mountain passes and valleys of northern New Mexico last week when a tune begin to play on my satellite radio.

I had not heard this song in decades. It was my old friend, Neil Diamond, singing lyrics that maybe we ought to listen to again as thousands of niños are “Coming to America” through our nation’s southern border. Diamond sang these most poignant lyrics:

“Coming America”©


Neil Diamond


We’ve been traveling far

Without a home

But not without a star


Only want to be free

We huddle close

Hang on to a dream

On the boats and on the planes

They’re coming to America

Never looking back again,

They’re coming to America


Don’t it seem so far away

Oh, we’re traveling light today

In the eye of the storm

In the eye of the storm


To a new and a shiny place

Make our bed and we’ll say our grace

Freedom’s light burning warm

Freedom’s light burning warm

Everywhere around the world

They’re coming to America

Ev’ry time that flag’s unfurled

They’re coming to America

The immigrants of our history books came in boats and ships to escape religious persecution. Some, like the Irish, came to escape starvation resulting from the potato famine of 1845. Rarely do these accounts tell the story of those that crossed the borderline along the Rio Grande and the deserts from El Paso to San Diego. Some came with greed to search for gold and riches that were to be found in the Seven Cities of Cibola. Some came in peace, landed at Plymouth Rock and were welcomed, by the natives. The Spaniards came to the Caribbean and were met, according to the priests, by natives who accepted them with love and grace; “Como en Dios” and they became los Indios. The forefathers of these Indios supposedly crossed the Bering Straits from Mongolia and Russia to what is now Alaska. As far as I can surmise, not one inhabitant of the Americas sprung up from the mud of the land around them. They were immigrants

Others came as wolves dressed in sheep’s wool and crossed the Sabine River from the east. They came to escape failures as politicians, Indian fighters, lawyers, land speculators and were just a fast horse away from the hangman’s noose. These “heroes” now have state capitols, cities, highways, universities, schools and public buildings named in their honor: Austin, Houston, Travis, Crockett, Fannin, Bowie and Deaf Smith. Some of their ghosts still wander about the Alamo Plaza in San Antonio and at Goliad. They too were immigrants.

Most recently they arrived as political refugees from Haiti, Canada, and Cuba and as such qualified for refugee status and political asylum. Several of these refugees have become so Americanized that they now have the political capital to turn on those who are the most recent newcomers and dare seek what they received. They have become the purveyors of misguided public policies and march lockstep with the Tea Party and have the audacity to challenge the old familias of Tejas, Nuevo Mexico and California for their right to be here.

Now they come to America as children wandering thousands of miles to escape the violence and deprivation that is all-too-common in their homeland: Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, and El Salvador as well as Nicaragua. Many come with only their names and the contact information for their families in the land of opportunity. They come without malice but with hope and we see them, little niños with eyes filled with fear, shy smiles and a desire for a moment’s reprieve from the chaos and destruction that they have left behind. Many come to search for sus Madres y Padres. They are no difference that Mario Puzo’s Don Corleone who came by way of Ellis Island and had his name changed to that of his home village.

The politicians, as always, pontificate about what to do. The simplistic and alarming proposals that the Tea Party and its candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Dan Patrick, set forth are directed at the after affects and not at the source of the problem. The reactionary immigration policies of the right wing are directed at an oppressive approach rather than a constructive one.

The shortsighted governor of Texas proclaims that we should ship all of these children back to where they came from and bring the National Guard to secure our border. A corresponding question surfaces: So how does this action provide long term and sustainable solutions to the issue of immigration? I propose that we all stand hand-in-hand along the border from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California as if playing the elementary school yard game of Red Rover. I contend that even then that the flow of immigrants would not be halted. The focus of our immigration policies should on solving the problem at the source, in the economically distressed nations of the Americas.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America, in its 2013 Report, Latin American Economic Outlook: SME Policies for Structural Change proposes that much can be done to ameliorate unemployment and poverty as well as outward migration in this region of the world. Three areas of intervention are particularly useful for removing bottlenecks for the development of Small and SMEs: Medium-Sized Enterprises: 1.) Access to finance 2.) Innovation and technology policies, especially access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) and 3.) The development of skills and human capital.

Coincidentally, these proposals mirror the analysis of J. Mariah Brown in a recent report in the Houston Chronicle, How Important Are Small Businesses to Local Economies? The report contends that, “While small businesses may not generate as much money as large corporations, they are a critical component of and major contributor to the strength of local economies. Small businesses present new employment opportunities and serve as the building blocks of the United States’ largest corporations.” The United States Department of Commerce reports that small businesses generate 40 percent of the economic wealth of this nation and employ over 70 percent of the workforce.

Of course we do not have the resources to resolve the challenges that immigration has set before us. Instead, we have spent trillions of our taxes dollars and will continue to do so as we add to the tally of the thousands of lives of our young women and men lost while fighting in the ill-advised wars in the Middle East and in Afghanistan. We throw away billions of dollars to corrupt foreign leaders and yet we cannot find a solution to the complexity of immigration. I was under the impression that the “smart Latinos” who align with the Tea Party, Senators Cruz and Rubio had the answer. All I have heard from these two, along with Texas Senator Cornyn, and Texas Governor Rick Perry, amounts to the dust devils that result from heated winds in the Texas Panhandle that cause a momentary disruption in a good day’s work and not much else. They are just blowing hot wind.

The simple minds at work on a solution are not up to the task since they would rather be bombastic and venomous in their rhetoric rather than thoughtful and insightful. We need to be more engaged in strategic thinking within the context of a worldview to solve the problem of immigration.

Milton Bearden, in a 2001 article in Foreign Affairs, referred to Afghanistan as the “Graveyard of Empires.” Afghanistan is an unruly nation that has seen the ancient Greeks, Romans, the Mongols, the British, the French, and the Russians, before the United States; send thousands of their troops to their death in the vast deserts and mountain ranges of a rather geographically expansive territory. I recall reading an article in National Geographic about the remnants of the weapons scattered throughout the vast expanse of Afghanistan as a testament to the failure of misguided foreign policy. Barbara Tuckman referred to such idiocy as the “March of Folly.”

It appears to me that we are allowing our nation’s political hubris dictate a foreign policy that will have us go back to Iraq and maintain our soldiers in Afghanistan and Pakistan while ignoring our neighboring nations, south of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo. These policies, I believe, will result in these nations becoming the next source of exploitation by extremists and leads to economic and political deprivation that is now showing up on our southern borders in the innocent niños who are trying to escape the horrors and chaos in their homeland.

From what I can surmise, all of the elected officials, who had all of the right answers during their campaigns, are now clueless. I challenge those on the right and the left to consider America first before their own shortsighted agendas and those of the lobbyists who compete to control them.

Yes, Sarah Palin, we too are Americans, from the most northern Tundra of Canada to Tierra de Fuego in the most southern tip of Argentina. Our nation has not paid sufficient attention to the Americas and its potential. We would rather spend our resources attempting to seed democracy in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan where these tribes have been engaged in war, many based on blood feuds, since the times of Abraham. Did we not learn any lessons from our misguided war and misspent resources and lives in Korea, Viet Nam, and Iraq? Sometimes we need to realize that our future is linked to a vertical geography that touches the thirty-six nations that make up the Americas.

I posit that the future of our nation’s security is grounded in what we do or fail to do to expand economic opportunity in our own backyard, the Americas. The Tea Party, Dan Patrick, Senator Cornyn and the governor of Texas can be certain that this flow of immigrants, or the “hordes’ as they refer to them, will continue as long as their policy vision extends only to the tip of their nose. And yes, these niños will continue coming to America.

Baltazar Acevedo y Arispe, Jr., Ph.D., is a Chicano activist, writer and researcher. He left UT-Pan American as a tenured professor of leadership and research in 2012. His research is directed at exploring quality of life issues that impact the Mexican American community, principally in Texas and the Southwest. He writes regularly for the Rio Grande Guardian. He resides in Waco, Texas and Corrales, New Mexico.