If we are going to start to solve our immigration problem and stay true to our family values, we need to understand the plight of hundreds of thousands of mothers now in the U.S. and the children they felt forced to leave behind in Central America. It's a humanitarian crisis.
What you probably don't realize is that each year, tens of thousands of Central American immigrants make a perilous journey clinging to the tops of freight trains to reach the U.S. Some of them are women—single moms so desperate to feed their hungry children that they take them to garbage dumps to search for food.
Many ultimately make a heartrending choice: they leave their children behind with a grandparent and head north, promising to return in two years-max.
But once here, they struggle in low-paying jobs. What little they have they send to their kids. But they can't save enough to return home or to pay smugglers to get their children here. Many children feel abandoned and resent—even hate— their mothers for leaving them. The mothers often lose what is most important: the love of their child.
Everyone favors a more secure border. But that won't keep desperate mothers out of our country or keep them and their children from trying to reunite. Walls will never stop them.
What we need to do is find ways to help Central American countries create more jobs so these women never have to leave their children. That's the only way we will slow a modern day exodus that's destroying families and taxing America.
Sonia Nazario,a projects reporter for the Los Angeles Times, has spent more than two decades reporting and writing about social issues, earning her dozens of national awards. The newspaper series upon which her book, "Enrique's Journey: The Story of a Boy's Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with his Mother" is based, won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, the George Polk Award for International Reporting, and the Grand Prize of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards. Nazario grew up in Kansas and Argentina. She is a graduate of Williams College and has a master's degree in Latin American studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband.
You can read an excerpt of her book here.
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