Corn, Coffee, and the Inspiration of Immigration

Last week I had the fun privilege to speak to group of college student leaders at the NCMSLC conference.  I was asked a question about how to approach immigration at a time in our country’s life where the working poor and middle classes are struggling.

I gave an answer, but as I’ve had more time to reflect, I think I want a do-over.  So here goes…

I don’t really think that the US economic system should shoulder the responsibility of creating jobs for anyone who decides to come here. I’m not saying that I don’t think it could, but I don’t necessarily think it needs to.

Many immigrants I have met would prefer to remain in their home countries.  They miss their families and the lives that they had built at home.  So there is an element international economic development that enters into the equation.

First of all, Americans tend to be very generous, and especially Christians.  So I encourage people to find local organizations creating jobs for local people in Mexico and Central America.  If you know of any, please leave them in the comments. And as I come across them, I will share the information as well.

But we must also take some responsibility for US policies that have actually benefited the US economy at the expense of other countries’ economies.  NAFTA, for example, made it cheaper for Mexican people to buy corn for government-subsidized US farmers than from local Mexican farmers.  Therefore, numerous Mexican farmers went out of business, migrated to Mexican cities, and eventually, many continued on to the States.

You may have different opinions about specific policies and their benefits and challenges, but the simple reality is that if US policies damage neighboring economics, then migration is inevitable. 

One very simple way to counteract this is through Fair Trade products.  Guatemala is a giant exporter of coffee. If we actually pay for our coffee what it costs to brew that cup, then maybe that farmer can survive off the crops he grows in his home country.   

The beauty of just economies is that immigration would become a choice people can make, weighing their personal economic options, and not a survival necessity. 

And lastly, I would add that I love that God uses the metaphor of the Church as a body, each with a different function and role. What I enjoy about sharing with college students is my hope that as I tell my story and start a conversation around immigration that this role may inspire an amazing young leader to harness their specific creativity and expertise to explore new solutions and ways to support immigrants. 

We are a body.


  1. Awesome, Sarah. Really great post.

  2. Thanks so much, Alyssa!


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