In the five years that I have volunteered at schools in Tegucigalpa and Talanga Honduras I’ve been exposed to the reality of many things. The beauty of simple human interaction. The burdens of being born into a low-income family. The hope that youth can bring to a struggling country. The violence that can shatter this hope to pieces. The vibrancy and love in a culture. The dirty underside only the Western media mentions. All these abstract concepts by which we categorize Central America; immigration, cartel violence, drugs, murder rates, overpopulation, poverty. I have to stress— there are people behind these issues. These are my hermanos, the goofy ones who keep me laughing for hours and share so much with me. But then I get a glimpse of these challenges and I can’t understand why sometimes it feels like no one else cares because these are human beings; these are human issues.
A recent Washington Post article outlined the plight of the Central American immigrant trying to enter the United States. The pathway is filled with violence, illness, rape, hunger and does not even guarantee successful entry, and yet there are train tops overflowing with hopeful workers praying that God will bless their journey. I can’t help but think of my hermanos, all the guys who are so grateful for the opportunity to continue their education at these schools and have amazing dreams to help their families. I have complete faith that all of them will grow into amazing men and it kills me to hear them mention coming to the U.S. as part of their plan. They want to join their family, they want to have a career, and they want the success they don’t think they can have in Honduras. I feel helpless as I implore them to appreciate Honduras as an option, to go through the process legally, to be smart, to be safe. But no matter how many times I say cuidate, I know that I can only say so much.
We’ve created this image of America that is bright and shiny and happy and almost utopian. Why are we surprised that immigrants want to come here? Why are we so poorly equipped to deal with them? When my hermanos at these schools have had a classmate killed in a mugging gone wrong and a Dad that abandoned their family and a home without a floor and a mother who works constantly but still can’t feed her seven kids— of course they want to come to the U.S. These kids asked for none of this but because of the family they were born into these are their burdens to bear. And since I was 14 years old and experienced Honduras for the first time, these have become my burdens to bear. From the seven-year-olds to the 19-year-olds, these boys just want to take care of their families. With all the political dramatics and nitpicking that has burdened immigration reform, I just ask Congress to remember the people behind these issues. I just need a reminder that someone cares.