Today I am going to play a little game I like to call "what if". It is going to include me as a young mom (or even as a granny with young grandkids). And today I live in El Salvador. Or Guatemala. Or Honduras. I hope you will stick with me here. I am terrified of what is going on in my country. I live in a country where the murder rate is through the roof. And gang violence is unbelievable. And those gangs need more and more members every single day because they are killing off their own.
My children are scared and they are hungry. We are very, very poor. And there is no hope in my country. I have seen my friend's children die at the hands of these scary gangs. There is much talk of going to the United States. The United States will take us and take care of our kids. We will be able to find jobs picking fruits and vegetables. We will get to see our kids flourish. Like the American kids do.
But it is a long, long walk. And it is dangerous. A tiny part of this journey that would take 30 minutes by car will take us more than 20 hours to walk.And we are traveling more than 1000 miles. It will not be easy. There are smugglers. They will try to take my kids so they can use them to get into the United States. There will be hostile residents in Mexico that will beat us, shoot at us, or turn us into authorities. But I must take this chance. I am thinking about the sure death of my kids if I stay in my country. I have to get them to the border of the United States. (Isn't this what any mother would do?)
Along the trail to the United States we will find theft, rape, and murder. We will walk through dense jungles and open fields. There will be dirty water to drink. Maybe we will find some food. We may go days without. In our group we will watch people die from drinking the water. We will see other mother's raped so they can provide food for their children.
It is hot! Very, very hot. And humid. My children will cry from hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. But we have to keep going. I know that when I get to the border of the United States I will have two choices. I will find the entrance that will listen to the horror stories of what is going on in my country. I will tell them the gang is looking for us because they want to kill my 10 year old son for stealing food from them. We cannot go back. They will help us. They will give us shelter. They will feed my children.
We arrive! And the United States will not let me in. They will not listen to my story. This isn't what I was promised. I have always heard the people of the United States are kind and caring. I have heard about the Statue of Liberty with the words: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." But now they are telling me I cannot come in. I am desperate.
So I head down another road.I have two choices. I can send my children ahead of me alone. I can try to find them later. I can pray they will be taken care of. Or I can accompany them and pray for the best. I sneak across the border. But I am caught. I will be arrested. They tell me my kids will be taken away from me. They seem delighted in my misery. My kids stay with me while we wait in a line to be processed. I try to prepare them. They cry. I tell them I will find them. I tell them everything will be okay. I tell them they will get to eat. There will be clean water. They will not be gangs looking for them so they can kill them. They cling to me. I keep telling them to be brave. I tell them "this is the United States of America".
The last thing I hear as I am taken away by the immigration authorities are the cries of my children.....
"mama, mama, please don't go"
And this is me again:
If you have been watching TV at all this week you have heard these cries. It is heart wrenching. Yes, I want secure borders for my country. Yes, I want to help these families. Can't the two go hand in hand. Why does it have to be zero tolerance. Why are we treating these people, who only want a better life for their family, so horrible. What can we do to help? These kids are being used as political pawns for a border wall. I am ashamed today to be an American.