South Forsyth voices on Guatemalan Migrants


Used with permission from Edwin Levick from Wikimedia Commons

Products of our past. In the past, immigration to US was for a better life. Now, immigrants flee to the US for their lives. Individuals like Oscar Leonel Lopez are barely surviving in their own countries. They have the same goals as the Eastern Europeans did when they first came to the United States: a brighter future.

About a year ago, 32-year-old Oscar Leonel Lopez, native to Guatemala, traveled to the US-Mexico border. There, he was caught by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and sent back home to the jobless province of Huehuetenango, Guatemala.


In an interview with NPR, he commented, “My family didn’t have money to send me to school and have a profession. Maybe my kids can get an education and can create a better life for themselves.”


Lopez is not the only individual to make the trip to the border; thousands of people have joined the caravan since. This has consequently resulted in mixed responses in America and was a topic that was focused on during the midterm elections.


President Donald Trump gave his unpopular stance on the issue when he stated, “Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S. We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them.”


He also stated in another tweet, “…Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are doing nothing for the United States but taking our money. Word is that a new Caravan is forming in Honduras and they are doing nothing about it. We will be cutting off all aid to these 3 countries – taking advantage of U.S. for years!”


However, there are people that do support the migrant caravan, even students at South Forsyth High School. Tarita Jakobs, a 9th grader at South, strongly believes that Guatemalans should be able to cross the border into the United States.


Jakobs said, “Yes, Guatemalans should come to Mexico and the Americas, but they should be prepared for the conditions.  I believe that the Guatemalans are right in leaving their homelands because there are gangs there, which is very dangerous.”


Coincidentally, she is an immigrant herself from Malaysia and understands their situation as she too went through the long process of moving to the United States. Moving in 2015, it wasn’t long until Trump was elected president and showed his disapproval for illegal immigrants. Jakobs, however, disagrees with Trump in his firm opinion about the migrant caravan and isn’t afraid to show it.  

Pullquote Photo

I had a hard time coming to the US, to get into the country and getting used to the lifestyle here. I think safety-wise, they should, but I don’t know how it’s going to affect everyone else, in terms of jobs. But I still believe that they [Guatemalan Migrants] should be allowed in the US.

— Tarita Jakobs

“I believe that President Donald Trump is ignorant [for threatening to cut off aid] because the US is built off of immigrants and refugees, and the Guatemalan migrants are refugees. I don’t think that the people in this country understand how privileged they are to be safe, so they should make use of that privilege and help other people.”


On the other hand, Jiayi Yu, another 9th grader at South Forsyth, firmly believes in Trump’s opinions and doesn’t want Guatemalans to take their time to come to the United States. She is an immigrant from China, but still stands to her opinion.


 “I am actually not against the President’s actions. The migration is illegal, therefore, laws and actions should be enforced. It’s illegal, it’s trespassing, and there are legal ways to properly gain citizenship or residence in the US and Mexico. I understand the difficulty of migrating into another country specifically, the US. The difference is that I have paperwork that gives me legal residency in this country. I think they should come to America legally. I think it’s improper for them to just trespass the border.”

I can relate to them in a way. I understand the difficulty of migrating into another country specifically, the US. The difference is that I have paperwork that gives me legal residency in this country.

— Jiayi Yu

Yu does understand that conditions in Guatemala are intolerable, but still finds paperwork as a necessity to legally come to the United States. Essentially, she believes that all immigrants should have to go through the long process of coming to the US legally because it is unfair to those who went through the paperwork and time, but then there are people who just came to the US without any paperwork. Yu isn’t the only person with this opinion, many other legal immigrants hold this same case because they feel that everyone should have the same treatment, no matter the background.


Months later, this is still an issue in America. In December 2018, 7-year-old Jakelin Caal passed away in US border patrol custody, who had recently traveled across the border with her father. They were caught by border patrol agents, as the two were traveling in a group of 163 people. They were taken to a small facility, where Caal became sick. Due to the inhumane conditions of the facility, it wasn’t any wonder that kids around the same age were developing illnesses as such.


Following the tragedy, another began. The government shutdown started December 22nd, and hasn’t ended. Parts of the government were shut down when Congress and the White House couldn’t reach an agreement about the spending money for the border wall between the US and Mexico. The Guatemalan migrant crisis could have possibly been the reason why the shutdown took place, in the midst of Trump’s determination to get “The Wall” built. This has caused hundreds of thousands of government workers, the FBI the most publicized, to be unemployed with no pay.


Looking at both sides of the story, if us Americans could just listen and hear out what each side had to say, we could fix the problems that we’re dealing with. The migrant crisis could be solved by the government if both sides could find a better way to deal with the problem instead of building an undiplomatic wall to separate 2 nations with different opinions. All we have to do is listen.