My mom was born in El Salvador, a small country in Central America with lush tropical mountains and fine black sand beaches on the Pacific ocean. She was petite, had long black hair, cinnamon brown skin, and a big, bright smile to match her bubbly personality. She met my father – a blond hair, blue eyed, no-nonsense Marine from Detroit – at the U.S. Embassy where they both worked. A perfect example of opposites attracting. After a couple years of dating, they married in 1979 in the capital of San Salvador and subsequently had my sisters and me here in the States.
During the 80s, most of my mom’s immediate family immigrated to the United States. They didn’t want to leave El Salvador but living there had become dangerous (I remember one story when I was a kid that an uncle and his family had to leave because he had a hit placed on him) so they picked up their lives and moved to Homestead, FL where my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins made a new forever home. I don’t know how each family member made their way to the States or what their legal status was/is – growing up, it never occurred to me to ask or wonder what struggles they went through to start a new life in a country where many of them didn’t speak the language.
I’m sharing this with you because what’s happening in this country – the xenophobia, extreme rhetoric, and family separations – has shaken me. I wonder sometimes if my family would have been able to leave El Salvador if someone like Trump had been president at the time. Would my cousin have been torn from my aunt as she begged and pleaded in broken English? Would my uncle have lost his sons in the maze of bureaucracy? I shudder to think about it.
Immigration is undoubtedly a complex issue and we should protect our borders but it should be approached with compassion and reason – not fear, anger, and violence. I say this not because I’m some sort of Pollyanna…I know not everyone who immigrates to the United States are good people, however, the vast majority of immigrants want the same things we want – to protect our loved ones and provide them with a better life. And yes, it would be ideal if everyone who immigrates to the United States did so through the proper channels but we don’t live in an ideal world. Life is messy; sometimes difficult choices must be made.
I wonder how future generations will reflect on this chapter of American history. I have a feeling it won’t be favorable. Despite these dark uncertain times, there are beacons of light. People who do care and are helping in big and small ways. I have faith America will one day live up to its promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all, even if that day isn’t in my lifetime. (Okay, maybe I am a bit of a Pollyanna after all.)
If you would like to help separated immigrants families, please consider donating to these organizations:
Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES)
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights
Fuerza Del Valle Workers Center
Al Otro Lado