Save The Children, Buy Fair Trade

As I write this, snuggled under a soft blanket my cats purring beside me, I can’t stop crying because right now in border towns all across the Southern United States children and parents are being forcibly separated and thrown in cages. Yes, cages. These immigrants are seeking asylum in our country and after weeks even months of travel they are thrown into completely cruel and inhuman conditions. The children are put into detention centers that are converted big box stores. Surrounded by wire cages, these children have nothing in which to seek comfort. Not in the cement floors, thin mats, space blankets, or even each other. They are under strict rules to not hug each other. What kind of monsters don’t allow hugs? Since April 19th - May 31st 1,995 children were separated from their guardians and according to one ex-staff member of a detention center said the children are so distraught by their separation and prison like conditions that they are screaming, inflicting self-harm, and even attempting suicide.

I’ve spent the last couple of days and up to this morning crying about the situation researching what I can do to help. In the short term both Raices and the Texas Civil Rights Project are great organizations to donate to.

 Image courtesy of  Newsweek

Image courtesy of Newsweek

 

But this situation needs a long-term solution as well. The first rule of compassion fashion is providing dignity and a good life for someone with every purchase I make. So how can we apply that here? We must support ethical working conditions and good jobs within the countries that people are migrating from. If people are given the opportunity of a good life in their home country they won’t be forced to undertake an incredibly dangerous journey to the US and then be subject to the cruel immigration policies the US is currently imposing.

I promise you, very very few people ever want to leave their country. Everything they love they love is there. Their family, friends, their life! They leave because they have to. The reason people are fleeing their home countries to try and gain entry to the US are complicated and nuanced, but at the core of everything is economics. No matter where people are from they love their children and will do whatever it takes to provide a good life for them. Let’s save them the pain and suffering of leaving their home country and create economic power right where they are.

 

That’s why buying fair-trade is more important than ever. Most immigrants entering the US through our southern border are from Central America. Central America’s main exports are rice, coffee, bananas, and other agricultural products. Luckily, it’s in these products that fair-trade really shines.

Fair-trade is exactly what it sounds like. People are paid fairly for the goods they produce. Sounds like common sense (I mean who among us wouldn’t want to be paid fairly for our work?), but that’s not how our global supply chain really works. Our current model rewards the few up top, the leaders of corporations. While taking advantage of the many at the bottom, the workers and small-scale farmers. You see fair-trade is not a handout it’s about paying fair wages for work, just like any of us would expect. Fair-trade seeks to even out the distribution of wealth by giving economic means and a voice to those that have the greatest stake in the game; the workers.

When workers are given more economic power, they will spend that money within their communities thereby lifting everyone up. The people of Central America live in a culturally vibrant and resource-rich land, one that the United States has colonized, exploited and destabilized over centuries. If we want good neighbors who respect our borders, it’s time WE start acting like good neighbors and pay a fair price for their goods.