Migrant Shelter Reflections

When I went to the migrant shelter the first time, I was struck by the raw power of the stories. I could no longer hide behind the impersonal narration of the New York Times. The spoken word “murder” hangs heavier than 6 letters allow. I felt passionately about contacting legislators in the United States about immigration, drug, and trade reform, as I believe laws in the United States negatively affect the living situation in many Central American countries and also prevent refugees from achieving safe living situations. Here’s my letter, which has gone to some UTD members, Texas and New Hampshire senators, Mayor Mike Rawlings, and  more.

Hello informed voter,
I hope you take the time to read this, and I appreciate your attention.
Today, I met a man from El Salvador who had killed three men to save his family. He was a decorated military official facing gang violence and pressure and was attacked for not supporting the corruption which surrounded him. His accolades included serving in the special forces in El Salvador as well as the UN. He wanted to have a distinguished military career, but in the wake of 8 armed men showing up to his house at the middle of the night and attempting to kill his family, he opted to flee.
Today, I met a man who had no education and showed me scars on his abdomen, wrist, shoulder, and throat, permanent reminders of the violent and brutal attacks he faced by gang members in his native Honduras. He had walked through the torrid Mexican state of Chiapas, severely burning his feet. His family still resides in Honduras, but he reassured me that they are relatively safe: only three have been murdered so far.
Today, I met a couple who had left their children behind. They hope to establish a safe life for their family so they can eventually send money to allow their children to join them. Commonly, this is done through coyotes, who often assault and exploit the children they are trusted with.
Today, I met a boy, three years younger than myself. He is 16, and he rides La Bestia, a system of freight trains that run through Mexico. Migrants who try to ride these trains often fall in their sleep or in the rain and are dismembered or killed. Gangs, corrupt police, and corrupt train officials often strip them naked, steal their money, and if they don’t have enough, they can be pushed off the train. Migrants are routinely raped, exploited, dismembered, and murdered. I am afraid for the 16 year old boy I met today, who said his destination is Estados Unidos. Even if he makes it to the border, there is a strong chance border officials will send him away again. I am afraid he will not make it there at all.
I am a student at the University of Dallas, and I am from New Hampshire. Currently, I am on a month-long study abroad excursion in Oaxaca, Mexico. I hope to learn Spanish here, but it struck me today that no matter how many languages I learn, I will never understand what gives me the right to set foot in the US where my fellow man in countries south of our border will never be allowed. It struck me today that in no context will I feel that the United States is correct in sending these people, including children, to their deaths, sending people who will be forced to join the gangs they sought to avoid. I believe in our great country, and I believe in our founding fathers’ eternal words: Liberty and Justice for ALL, and I believe we have a duty as Americans to help these people whom we currently choose to ignore. Our country’s drug laws fuel the bloodbath occurring just far enough South that we can turn a blind eye.
I really hope you take a moment to consider the economic benefits to loosening our legislation against drugs. I sincerely believe the clever economic tactic is to stop fighting supply, a battle which will never be won, and instead spend the same funds on education and programs to benefit those addicted to drugs. Civilians of any country do not deserve to be the casualties of our failed policies. Prohibition does not work for alcohol, and it’s a flawed policy for other drugs.
Furthermore, I suggest we reinstate policies which allow more migrants to come to the United States legally. I always see help wanted signs in gas stations and restaurants in Texas, and for many people these are life-changing opportunities. Even if you do not support permanent immigration, perhaps a refugee status based on murders per 100,000 people or education and training to take back to their home countries when it is safe to do so would help the United States to stop funding a war on drugs which only seems to have civilian casualties. I understand that there are many important issues, but as a concerned citizen, I believe you have the power to help make change. Thank you for your time.
Keely E. FitzGerald

Some legislators have contacted me back, and I’ve had mixed responses. However, at least my voice has been heard by a few, and I hope to stop at least one person from turning a blind eye to the situation at hand.



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