While studying abroad in Puebla, Mexico one of our main areas of study was migration. Living in a small town in the U.S., I have only ever been exposed to the law side of migration. I have heard news headlines about immigration or read about immigration laws, but I have never actually met and spoke with someone who has migrated to the U.S. Luckily on this trip, we were able to visit a migrant shelter in Puebla where migrants can stay for a few day while they are own their way to wherever their destination is. While there, we spoke with two families. One from Cuba which consisted of a mother, a newborn, the father, and the grandfather. The second family from Hounduras consisted of two mothers, each with two children between the ages of 6 and 14. Thanks to their openness and sharing, I have realized some things about myself, Mexico, The United States, and the awful discrimination of immigrants.
First, I realized that I am still a privileged person, even in Mexico. However, hearing the struggles and travels of those who have been neglected by their governments really got to me. Although, I have faced hardships, I have been so privileged compared to the people we met today. I have now seen what is it like to be truly neglected by your own government. Our government is so kind to us here in the U.S. and the least we could do is share that with others who have been neglected by their own.
The thing that struck me most that day was the 14 year old girl from Honduras. She kept looking at me, and smiling. I am impressed that she can go through all the mistreatment she is experiencing and continue to smile at and connect with strangers. She never spoke, and neither did I, (we wouldn’t have been able to communicate anyways) but when she left she gave me a big smile and a wave. I felt like we had connected emotionally. I felt for her, especially because I have a 14 year old brother. I also began to imagine their trip across the border. The woman said they would “find a ride somewhere”, however, they have no money or personal belongings because on their trip to Mexico they had been jumped and stripped of everything they owned. I imagined that the women would probably have to offer their bodies up as compensation, especially in the vulnerable state they are in traveling with no men, only young children. I started to tear up thinking of that sweet 14 year old girl having to sell herself so her family could reach the border. Her mother kept saying that she had to leave because she could no longer afford to feed her kids and send them to school, and they deserved to be taken care of and educated.
I often hear talk about immigrants coming to “steal our jobs”, but how can you steal something that Americans themselves are unwilling to do. I’ve seen many American mothers do whatever they can to care for their children and they are pitied for that. Why do we shame migrants doing the same thing? I think Americans need to change the way they view and treat immigrants. I think we, and I, have let our privilege blind us to the harsh realities that so many around us have had to face.