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The United States registers the highest number of illegal border crossings with Mexico this year.  Freedom does not make a person superior, only luckier.
The United States registers the highest number of illegal border crossings with Mexico this year.  Freedom does not make a person superior, only luckier. Getty Images

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Humanity | OP-ED

American women hold a priceless luxury. That luxury is freedom. Sometimes we need a reminder.

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In Mexico teenage girls are navigating dangerous cartel-controlled territories attempting to be free. I know, I’ve met them at the border in Roma, Texas. Recently I accompanied a pastor to the banks of the Rio Grande. Standing there watching as smugglers were unloading rafts full of migrants. I saw families, toddlers, and babies. It takes just minutes to cross the river from the Mexico side to the U.S. side. This went on for hours. I spoke to girls as young as thirteen who crossed alone. A mother took to breastfeeding her newborn minutes after stepping onshore, telling me she’d spent seventeen days in a harrowing transit from Honduras. Knowing it was both dangerous and illegal still, the desire for freedom was too strong to deter her.

All were grateful for the water and protein bars handed out by the pastor, his wife and their volunteers. Praying with them, then explaining how he does not support their illegal crossing in his hometown as he escorts them to nearby Border Patrol Agents for processing. Staring into the face of humanity that evening we all recognized one undeniable truth. Freedom does not make a person more superior, only more fortunate.

The U.S.this year saw the highest number of illegal crossings on record since 1960. 1.7 million migrants arrested in the last 12 months according to government numbers released in October. 147,000 were children without parents. That’s the largest number since 2008, when authorities first started counting unaccompanied minors.

We left the river around three a.m. The future for those women was uncertain.

We left the river around three a.m. The future for those women was uncertain. Mine was quite the opposite. I was certain I had to help somehow. Looking into the eyes of a child, smiling and dancing, no worries about where she’ll sleep that night or that her worldly possessions consist of just the clothes on her back will be forever seared into my memory. She didn’t choose her situation. Nor did I.

My grandparents moved to America legally when my dad was a child, changing the trajectory of their lives and mine. Being the daughter of a Mexican immigrant I was on the fortunate side of the river bank that night. Ladies I urge you, think about your role, your responsibility and what sheer geography has afforded you in life. As a journalist for many years I was a storyteller, giving a voice to those who had none. Along the border the stories are endless, complicated and with a bigger implication for humanity if not addressed.

America is not perfect. The media shows us the unjust, corrupt and broken parts of our system. Problems seem amplified when flashed through a television screen. But what I saw in Roma, Texas was completely unfiltered and it shook me. Is there a story you want to tell? A cause you can champion? Resist the urge to be complacent and complain. The freedom we have when wielded with purpose can enact change. I am working to spread the word of the Roma mission and raise money for the pastor’s humanitarian efforts. They receive zero state or federal funding because they assist migrants before processing. Yet the pastor is there the first moment children and teens step on our shores alone, vulnerable and often afraid. His kindness and compassion are their first impression of America. That is something we should be proud of. He won’t stop helping and it doesn’t look at least for now, they will stop coming.

The migrants I met at the border were complete strangers who I will probably never see again. Yet they’ve gripped my heart. They didn’t know that if my grandparents had never moved my life could be different. It didn’t matter. Standing along the river that night we were all just humans. I just had the luxury of leaving, back to my life of freedom.

(*) Latina award-winning journalist.

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