Gang-based societies and immigrant children

In my research for the novel, Choices, I became familiar with the horrors of gang-based societies – of the atmosphere of constant murder, rape, and torture of and by those we consider children, of parents extorted out of their meager resources so their daughters will not be taken, of mothers sacrificing one child to protect the others. While the details of the society in my novel are extrapolations of actual facts, they are, if anything, softened to suit our comfortable, safe sensibilities. The reality in several Latin American countries is far worse and has spurred the flood of children illegally entering this country.

I read posts that we, as a country, should not be assisting the children who were sent to violate the law by entering the United States. I don’t entirely disagree with that position – although I find it too absolute. I see the same people posting that we, as a country, should not be providing aid to any other country as long as people here in need – even if it is need for relief from taxes so they can afford to send their children to college. I can understand that position as well.

But put yourself in the place of a mother or father – being demanded to turn over a child to be raped and killed. What would you do to save your children? Would you break the law? What would you want the individuals they encounter to do?

I believe our response as individuals need not be the same as our country’s response. If a child came to your door, hungry, exhausted, having escaped certain rape, torture, and death, would you turn away? That is the question all of us – including myself – now face.

I don’t have the answer for us as a country, nor do I have the answer for all of us as individual human beings. But I know from my independent research that the danger and horror they are trying to escape is real. I cannot pretend not to see the child on my doorstep. I cannot simply close the door. Whatever I do as an individual won’t fix the problem in a global sense or even have an impact, but just perhaps it will save a person.

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