This morning, I woke up to my one year old son crying for his mama at 5:17 in the morning. Yes, 5:17 in the morning! When I took him out of his crib, with a bottle of warm milk in hand, and laid him down in our bed, his cries intensified. On a normal day in our household, this would do the trick, but today his mama was gone. Before the sun even thought about coming up, his mama dipped out of the house, with suitcase in hand and a plane ticket to McAllen, Texas; a city that sits in the Rio Grande Valley on our nation’s border with our neighbor, Mexico. So it took a while to convince Mateo Ali that his papa had everything under control. By the time he was done with the bottle, we were good.
The part that Mateo Ali is too young to understand is that his mama is coming back on Sunday and that her absence is only temporary. But, what if it was not? What if his mama was never coming back? What if he never saw her again? Hard to fathom such a thought for such a privileged life that the young boy lives. But for many of the young kids that his mama saw today in Texas while she was volunteering in one of the church charities that took in the border children, that actually happened to them. Their mothers and fathers left and never returned. It wasn’t temporary. It was a sacrifice they made for their family that most of us would never make.
Fleeing from uncontrollable violence in Central America (Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world!), many of these young children are fleeing very dangerous communities and risking their own lives to travel for days and weeks to reunite with their families here in America. 80% of all cocaine entering the United States now goes through Honduras. The gangs that control the major cities were exported from the United States and the killing is unlike any other country in the world. 7 children were murdered in April alone in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the most dangerous city on the planet. A 7 year old, Kenneth, was tortured and beaten to death with rocks and sticks. Just last week, in nearby Santa Barbara, a group of kids slit the throat of a 11 year old because he didn’t pony up a 50 cent extortion fee.
The United States has issued a major travel warning for American citizens going to Honduras. This sh*t is serious.
If a young girl came knocking at your door, fleeing from violence and possible death, what would you do? Would you send that young child back into the violent situation on her own or would you offer her safety and protection? When Syrians flee violence, we call them refugees. When Darfurians flee violence, we call them refugees also. But, when Central Americans flee violence, why do we call them illegal? Let’s treat them as part of the humanitarian crisis that this is and not turn our back on these desperate children.
These young kids are fleeing unimaginable violence and all they want to do is see their mothers again. As one young person said today at the press conference today in McAllen, these kids didn’t know they were breaking the law when they crossed the Rio Grande river, they just wanted to hug mama one more time. I respect that. I gotta respect that…I am a new father and I know how much our son needs his parents. I know we are a country of laws and I know that they are breaking the law by entering this country illegally, but I support their braveness and recognize their desperation to get out of an incredibly dangerous situation and make the ultimate attempt to keep their families together. And with regards to the law, if the system is broken, then fix it. Don’t punish the children who don’t want to die. Create a pathway for citizenship for their parents and the other undocumented people in this country who are law-abiding (99% of them) and allow them to be tax-paying members of our diverse nation. There is a solution to this problem, if politicians want to stop playing games with the future of these innocent kids.
When I got home from work tonight, my son was calling for his mama. I can understand why, because like Mateo Ali, I am in awe of his mother and her committment to uplifting all people around the world. Luckily the warm bottle of milk did the trick this time, but I know all he really wants is to hug and kiss his sweet mother. He will get that chance on Sunday when she returns from her volunteer trip to the border. I just hope, one day, those kids on the border get to do the same.
Michael Skolnik is the Editor-In-Chief of GlobalGrind.com and the political director to Russell Simmons. He is on the Board of Directors of The Trayvon Martin Foundation. Prior to this, Michael was an award-winning filmmaker. Follow him on twitter @MichaelSkolnik
Follow Paola Mendoza’s trip to the border by following her on twitter: @PaolaMendoza