More than 30 years ago, my mom sneaked into this country in the trunk of a car. The trip from South America, through Central America, Mexico and eventually into California, is the story of many Latino immigrants. In a search for a better life for me, my pregnant mom had to leave Colombia, where she was born, and Bolivia, where she was a social worker helping farmers, coal miners and their wives.
At the time, peasants and activists in South America were “disappeared” by right-wing governments. A Jesuit priest and journalist with whom my mother worked, Luis “Lucho” Espinal, was killed by a death squad in Bolivia. Espinal and my mother participated in hunger strikes against a U.S.-backed military dictatorship.
Today, thousands of migrants are traveling through Mexico in a so-called caravan that began in Honduras. Like my mom, many are fleeing violence and uncertainty. Unlike her, however, they’re not sneaking past borders — they’re marching north with the eyes of the world on them.
I spoke with my mom, Margarita, who has since become a U.S. citizen, about the migrants and a possible standoff at a border, which President Donald Trump has vowed to defend with the military.
How do you feel about the migrants making their way north?
No one abandons their country so easily. Look at all that they’re risking. Are they showering or eating? When people leave in those conditions — carrying large bags and small children long distance — they’re coming for a reason. People should ask why.
Why do you think they’re coming?
People aren’t getting their basic human rights. They’re coming because they’re poor and starving. Their governments are unstable and probably corrupt.
What would you say to Americans who oppose the migrants?
Some Americans fear that the migrants are coming to take something from them. I haven’t taken anything from anyone. The next day after I got to this country, I immediately went to work. Even though I was a professional in Bolivia, I cleaned houses here. It was so hard but I did it.
What would you say to Trump about the U.S. military at the border?
Trump says some of the migrants are terrorists. How does he know this? Has he seen them? Has Trump ever gone a day without eating? Has anyone in Congress ever starved?
What should the U.S. government do with the migrants?
Treat them like humans . . . And please, please don’t separate children from their families.
Josmar Trujillo is a trainer, writer and activist.