The Migrant Crisis

Morgan Smith

It was 8:30 AM, Thursday, December 22 and I was delivering a load of clothing and school supplies to a migrant shelter in Juárez, Mexico called Respettrans when I tripped on the ragged sidewalk and crashed to the pavement. The four young migrants helping me were stunned and helped me into the building where a crowd gathered and two nurses from the states of Guerrero and Michoacán, Mexico insisted on washing and bandaging these scrapes. I was more embarrassed than hurt but this incident crystallized what I have experienced in four years of meeting with hundreds of migrants in shelters and on the streets of Juárez and Palomas, Mexico, El Paso, Texas and Deming, New Mexico.

These are overwhelmingly good people who have made grueling, dangerous and expensive trips to our southern border in order to escape unbearable situations of violence, corruption, poverty and now climate change in their home countries. They deserve humane treatment and a fair resolution to their issues.

What are the issues and what could be done?
Although our immigration laws are extremely complex and contain all sorts of special circumstances for different groups or countries, I see five categories of migrants.
1. Guest workers. Our farmers and construction companies need workers but the numbers allowed to come into the country on seasonal permits are way too low. As a result, many of those who do come do so illegally and then stay here because it is too difficult to go back and forth.
Increasing the number of permits would allow them to return home after a season of work here and would reduce the number who are here illegally.
2. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). These are kids who were brought
here by their parents when very young. For the most part, they have absolutely no ties or knowledge of the countries from which they came and to send them back there would be shameful.
3. Migrants here illegally. The numbers are huge and most are migrants who came legally and
simply overstayed their visas. Many have been here for years or decades. Why not treat them as
we treat the hundreds of thousands of other Americans who disobey the law? Assess a penalty
and then let them get on with their lives.
4. Those arriving illegally. On September 13, I had the opportunity to be with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents as they patrolled the mountainous area west of El Paso and Juárez and saw how efficiently yet humanely they apprehended those attempting to cross illegally. This “human wall” is much more effective than the steel one where “coyotes” can cross in seconds using lightweight but sturdy ladders. The question is one of having enough personnel.

Even though these migrants – mostly young men who would not qualify for asylum – are coming
illegally, they are for the most part looking for work, not smuggling drugs. All studies show that
the overwhelming majority of drugs entering the U.S. come through ports of entry in big trucks.

Although we cannot allow them to enter illegally, keep in mind the economic pressures they face in their home countries. The minimum wage per day in Mexico is less than half the hourly minimum wage in Denver. Per capita income in countries like Guatemala and Honduras ranges from roughly $5,000 to $8,000 a year as compared to about $36,000 here.
5. Asylum seekers. In terms of sheer numbers, this is clearly the major issue and a twofold one. First, going back at least several US Presidents, there has been a lack of focus on the growing number of migrants awaiting their final asylum hearings before a judge and now the backlog is well over a million cases.
More immediate is the plight of the thousands who are arriving at the border only to find their pathway blocked by Title 42. I was impressed with the efficiency of the CBP’s screening process that I observed on September 13 but the issue is where do these migrants go once they have been screened. For example, despite the well coordinated government and private sector efforts in El Paso, there were huge crowds sleeping on Father Rahm Street the morning of December 22 before the temperature plummeted.

The situation is worse on the Mexican side because the existing shelters are full. Establishing a joint Mexico-USA Border Task Force should be high on the agenda of President Biden’s upcoming trip to Mexico.
This will be a test of both our humanity and our ingenuity but despite this particular challenge,
the other issues I’ve mentioned can easily be resolved if we tackle them in a spirit of practicality
not partisanship.

Morgan Smith is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives and Commissioner
of Agriculture and has been traveling to the border to document conditions there at least
monthly for the last decade. He can be reached at


38 Reasons to Join COTA

COTA Membership is packed with unique opportunities and resources to network your organization or business with some of the world’s most influential executives in the private and public sectors, for success and growth throughout the International Community. Our Valued Membership is situated throughout 41 states and 38 countries and growing.

COTA’S Key Issues:
Free trade
Global Women Topics
Affordable Housing in Latin America
Educational Program – You Are the Difference: The Human Face in Doing Business

COTA is now taking our 26 years of navigating the international waters of trade and economic development to another level. It is now time for the Chamber of the Americas and its Foundation to take a more active leadership role in creating a society for the greater good of all humanity, by planting seeds of hope and love to heal a Divided Nation and International Community now and into the future.

COTA Foundation, through fundraising and directing resources, is committed to take its educational program “YOU ARE THE DIFFERENCE: THE HUMAN FACE IN DOING BUSINESS” nationally and internationally to Universities and Colleges through webinars, seminars and town halls, as well as reaching out to other educational and economic Institutions and organizations, corporations, chambers and nonprofits.

OPIC — The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is a self-sustaining U.S. Government agency that helps American businesses invest in emerging markets.

EXIM Bank — provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working capital guarantees and export credit insurance, to promote the sale of U.S. goods and services abroad.

Metropolitan State University — Through COTA’s foundation, to take our educational program “You Are the Difference: The Human Face in doing Business” nationally and internationally to universities and colleges,as well as reaching out through community events.

El Pomar Foundation — A Colorado nonprofit organization established in 1937 by Spencer and Julie Penrose.

San Jose Hispanic Chamber of Commerce — includes OPIC, EXIM bank and other financial institutions that support development throughout the International Community.

Garritz International — Digital Services (websites, mobile apps, social media, online media planning and buying, tailor-made consulting).

BizWest — a print and electronic paper, the most accurate, in-depth business news and developer of the deepest and most up-to-date business database in Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado.

Wells Fargo Bank — specializes in Retail Banking, Insurance, Mortgages, Consumer Finance and Corporate and Investment Banking.

Newmont Mining — the world’s largest gold producer with significant assets or operations on five continents.

Denver Sister Cities International — a vibrant and growing organization that believes in bringing together local citizens with grassroots efforts. Featuring 10 Sister Cities around the world.

Belize Chamber of Commerce — the largest private sector membership-based organization in Belize and has been consistently championing the causes of its private sector constituency.

Global Chamber Denver — a thriving and collaborating community of CEOs, executives, and professionals growing business across 500 metropolitan areas.

United Airlines — Let’s Fly Together

Trade Missions and Reverse Trade Missions — a key function of Chamber of Americas is for its members and non-members to attend trade missions and experience firsthand the facilitation of trade and investment that await them throughout the Western Hemisphere. The trade missions also play an important role in supporting and strengthening local economies. In addition, attendees have the opportunity to establish international business relationships and gain access to national and regional leaders in both the public and private sectors.

Executive Forums & Special Event Town Halls — Chamber of Americas holds monthly executive forum luncheons that comprise speakers from a wide variety of sectors within the global marketplace, including business, government, media, as well as those involved in the
economic, and social systems. These speakers include diplomats, high-ranking political officials, experts in international trade and investment, successful entrepreneurs and more. Forum topics, educate, stimulate and inspire.

Seminars, Conferences and Webinars — focused educational seminars and conferences to explore opportunities in trade, investment and other business pursuits throughout the International Community.

Cultural, Networking and Social Events — outreach to the greater business community in creating a better world for all peoples through global endeavors, VIP gatherings and members-only events.

Chamber of the Americas
720 Kipling Street, Suite 13, Denver, CO 80215 USA

For more information, contact: Gil Cisneros, Chairman and CEO
(303) 462-1275, E-mail: gil@chamberoftheamericas.com