Today, United Way is launching United for Humanity to tell the story of migration through human eyes. Currently, the conversation around migration is too narrow and misleading. That’s why I encourage you to visit united4humanity.org, listen to the stories of migrants from around the world and learn about their experiences.
Migration is one of life’s constants. It’s been going on for centuries, but fueled by globalization, conflict and other factors, it is one of the defining issues of our time. This fact was accentuated by the recent release of a United Nations report that said the number of forcibly displaced people in the world reached almost 71 million people at the end of 2018 – the most since World War II and double the number from 20 years ago.
United Way has supported migrants or refugees in China, Europe, Canada, the United States, and many other places in which we work. But one of the most pressing issues at the moment is the migrant crisis along the border between the U.S. and Mexico. It’s constantly discussed by policymakers, journalists and by families at kitchen tables. It’s the subject of fraught conversations, to say the least.
As the son of immigrants, the narrow and often misleading debate taking place in the U.S. frustrates me. Many of us, or our previous generations, came from somewhere else. Yet too often, reports about migrants coming from Central America and other parts of the world through Mexico look at the issue through a strictly political, security or economic lens.
People should come first. Their welfare, their hopes and their dreams for a better life. If we are going to fight for everyone, we should fight for them too. We should respond with head and heart.
Yet to fully understand an issue, I believe that it’s important to witness it firsthand. That’s why, earlier this year, I made two trips to the U.S.-Mexico border: one to San Diego and Tijuana and the other to El Paso and Juarez. Along with United Way staff and local leaders, I visited shelters, churches and health centers. Together, we met with religious figures, business leaders and dedicated volunteers – and of course many migrants and refugees themselves.
United4Humanity.org includes video from my most recent trip to the U.S.-Mexico border in April and video and content highlighting our network’s current and past migration work. I want to present the facts on the ground, redefine the narrative around migration, and show this issue through human eyes. I have a lot of thoughts about this issue, but one of my biggest takeaways is that migration isn’t a zero-sum game. There doesn’t have to be winners or losers. Migration provides an opportunity not only to build stronger communities for all, but for our better angels to rise up and provide greater opportunity for our fellow human beings.
United Way will continue to lean into this issue. We will tell these stories and play an active role in shaping the narrative about migration at all levels of our society. Migration is one of the biggest issues we currently face, and it’s time to put people first.
Please visit United4Humanity.org and stay tuned for more.
President & CEO of United Way Worldwide