José and his parents live in Monterrey, Mexico. Life is tough. His mother and father work very hard to keep a roof over their head, feed and protect José and his sisters. 

One day, José’s uncle visits from San Antonio. José overhears his uncle and his parents arguing. The uncle is not legally in the United States, but he is doing well and is working on getting a green card, becoming legitimate. He wants José’s family to come to San Antonio. He says he knows a way to get them there without paying the “coyotes.”

José’s mother, especially, is afraid. She has always obeyed all the laws at home in Mexico, she does not want to become a criminal and risk arrest and deportation. She and her husband have applied through legitimate channels to immigrate to the United States, but it is taking a long time. The uncle is pushing them to go now.

Finally, the family takes the plunge and crosses the border, joining the uncle in San Antonio. Life is not much better, and they are always worried about getting caught and being sent back to Mexico. To complicate things further, José has been told he is going to have a little brother or sister born in the United States. José is resentful of this unborn sibling. He or she will be a U.S. citizen!

Pedro is 15, very scared and very hungry. He can remember when his family had a pretty good life, there was always food on the table and his father worked for a European company in Los Teques, just outside Caracas, Venezuela.

Pedro and his family have been on hard times for years. Now, there is no food at all, and Pedro’s parents are abandoning him and his brother at an orphanage. They can no longer care for them.

Venezuela was a rich country, a great democracy that was doing pretty well before the socialists took over. Now, life is quite desperate. Crime has penetrated neighborhoods and families where it had never taken hold before. There is no money, no food.

Of course, José and Pedro are fictional characters I created for the purposes of this column.

However, I suspect you would not have to go too far in San Antonio, Monterrey or Los Teques to find the real-life versions of both.

The question for you and me is this: How do you react to these stories? What should caring U.S. citizens do in these cases?

The family situations are nearly the same. The course of action each family has taken is entirely different, largely based on the resources and abilities available to them.

Last week, I was in Willemstad, Curaçao and Cartagena, Colombia. If you look at a map, you’ll see we had Venezuela mostly surrounded from these two places.

Willemstad and Cartagena are very prosperous cities just a stone’s throw from socialist Venezuela. When one thinks about it, the contrasts are striking. Same resources, same climate, same cultures, but a government bent on destruction in Venezuela.

This is what got me to thinking about José and Pedro.

And here is my reaction to my question of what the U.S. should do, a reaction I am still sorting out for myself at the deepest levels of thinking.

I think we should enforce our border, provide a legitimate way for families such as José’s to reach the U.S. if they want, a way that does not take over five years. As for Pedro’s family’s situation, I am in favor of invading Venezuela right now and restoring democracy to this beautiful country full of beautiful people.

Now, I can’t tell you for sure why I feel as strongly as I do about these widely different courses of action, but I do. I am going to be working on that and trying to sort it out.

I know part of it is I am concerned about the “brain drain,” the loss of José and Pedro mean to their home locales if they leave (an option that, sadly, is not available to Pedro anyway).

For you online respondents to this column, please see if you can help me out here. What are your reactions and what are the deep-seated reasons for your reactions? And, please, don’t just spew the political line you always give me.

If you and I will be honest with ourselves here, we have a chance of learning something new about how we think from these scenarios.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press.