These are Children, Not Bad Hombres
NY Times, February 25, 2017
- Enrique’s Journey
- About Sonia
- About the Family
- Educator Resources
- Reader Resources
- How to Help
This year the Pulitzer Prizes celebrate their centennial. I was a finalist in Public Service in 1998, was part of a group win in Breaking News for Earthquake coverage in 1995 and won again in 2003 in Feature Writing.
I had the honor and privilege to be a part of the Game Changer Idea Festival in North Dakota where other Pulitzer winners shared their ideas and stories. Some included Seymour Hersh (My Lai, The Killing of Osama Bin Laden), Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation, Command & Control), Jacqueline Jones (The Myth of Race), Elizabeth Fenn (History of ND’s Mandan Indians) and Benjamin Franklin.
No Longer The Most Violent Place on Earth
NY Times, August 11, 2016
NPR All Things Considered Interview
August 11, 2016
Photos of the trip to Honduras reporting on the piece for the NY Times
It’s been a busy year, but I wanted to provide a behind-the-scenes look of how my work has culminated in the past year. In June, I spent two weeks in Honduras reporting a piece for the New York Times about how foreign aid, applied to prevention and intervention programs in the most violent neighborhoods, is helping reduce crimes and homicides significantly. Here are some photos from that trip.
I spent a week in Tegucigalpa talking to experts. This is in front of the Palace of Justice. I happened to be in town on the one year anniversary of Los Indignados, a group that marches every Friday night to demand action against corruption. About 250 people marched on the presidential palace, including this 87 year old. Many were carrying torches.
I also visited with Enrique’s family in Honduras, including his sister, Belky, and her husband and two sons. They had just finished expanding their tiny home to accommodate their growing family.
Then I landed in San Pedro Sula. Until recently, it was considered the murder capitol of the world. In Honduras, which had the highest homicide rates of any country in the world, San Pedro Sula was its most violent city. Honduras long ago was called the original banana republic. When I landed in San Pedro Sula, there were banana trees as far as the eye could see.
I met some amazing people in San Pedro Sula’s Rivera Hernández neighborhood, including evangelical pastor Daniel Pacheco. He works with gangs and children to lower violence in the neighborhood. One thing he did was bring children from rival gang neighborhoods together to view an animated film in the middle of the street at night. Pastor Pacheco also tries to bring people from warring gang neighborhoods together to play soccer. It’s all part of reclaiming public spaces in a neighborhood not long ago deemed so violent that children couldn’t go outside in the day time.
I met boys like Carlos Manuel Escobar, 14, who saw so much violence growing up that two years ago he thought he would leave Honduras and ride on top of freight trains to get to the U.S. Now, things have improved enough in Rivera Hernández that he’s decided to stay.
The six gangs that control the Rivera Hernández neighborhood are so powerful that they go to homeowners, and threaten to kill them if they don’t leave. The owners abandoned their homes, and the gangsters then strip them and sell roofs, toilets, electrical wires, everything. About 1,000 neighborhood homes have been abandoned and stripped. Parts of Rivera Hernández look like they have been bombed.
I also met Pastor Arnold Linares. He has been doing gang intervention work for more than a decade, and in 2010 opened the first outreach center, or Centro de Alcance, for children with the help of the U.S. government. The center provides children a place to go after school, to play, to learn English or how to use a computer or a trade, and to get help finding jobs.
There’s still a long way to go to reduce violence and poverty enough so children feel like they don’t have to migrate to be safe. Half of the children in one of the worst parts of this neighborhood don’t own a pair of shoes. Many are malnourished and have distended bellies. Poverty has actually increased in Honduras since 2010. Unemployment and underemployment are at 62%. And gangs still control these neighborhoods with an iron fist. Still, the U.S. programs are helping.
I’ve had a very eventful year in so many other ways. I attended a play by the Jewish Women’s Theatre called Chutzpah and Salsa with two friends. The play was about Latina Jews and included my personal story. Other rewarding experiences have been visiting the many universities that have made Enrique’s Journey a common or freshman read, like at the University of New Mexico. This fall, I’ll be at Michigan State, Missouri State, Georgia State, and Georgia Southern, among many others.
I was able to visit Sam Houston State University near Houston, Texas, with Lourdes, Enrique’s mother. She and I visited an amazing art installation of works that were created by students and inspired by Enrique’s story.
I held a fundraiser for Olga Sánchez Martinez, the incredible woman in my book who has a shelter for migrants who are mutilated by trains in Chiapas, Mexico. Olga now also has a shelter for refugee women and children fleeing Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
I spoke at the Library of Congress for the American Jewish Committee, and dropped by the U.S. Supreme Court as they were hearing arguments about President Obama’s executive order that would have legalized the unlawful parents of U.S. born children [the court was tied so the measure didn’t pass]. And, the lovely folks at the American Immigration Council gave me their American Heritage Award at a large banquet in Las Vegas. It’s a work of art, showing migrants circling the globe. Right now, more people are migrating than at any time since World War II. A lot has already happened—let’s see what the rest of 2016 brings! —Sonia
Sonia Nazario’s latest opinion piece was on the cover of the 10/11 New York Times Sunday Review. If you agree you don’t want the US government paying Mexico to send Central American refugees back to their countries, sometimes to their deaths, contact federal lawmakers. Congressional leaders are proposing $90 million more for the US to fund Mexico’s crackdown in 2016; Why can’t we use that money to help rather than harm people? See How to Help section: Refugees at Our Door or click HERE(http://www.enriquesjourney.com/how-to-help/the-refugees-at-our-door/). Or sign the ONLINE petition!
I found these videos by Open Society Foundations, especially the ones labelled Mediterranean and Spain, incredibly moving. They reminded me of the desperation of those fleeing war, and to be grateful every day for what I have in this country.
I was heartened that President Obama announced in November a measure that would mean fewer citizen children will be separated from their undocumented parents.
But I am opposed to some of the measures this administration and congress have taken regarding unaccompanied immigrant children. The Administration has pushed to undo the law (Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act Of 2008,) that requires unaccompanied immigrant children to get a full hearing before an immigration judge. When that didn’t work, President Obama ordered immigration courts to ram cases through as quickly as possible. Some judges are giving kids one week to present a fully developed asylum case, something impossible to do in less than year.
This has got to stop.
Our government provides accused murderers with public counsel if the accused cannot afford one, but immigrants, even immigrant children get nothing. Most can’t afford a lawyer, and 70% are going to court alone (even toddlers!) and expected to argue a complex immigration asylum case. The United Nations has estimated that 6 in 10 of these kids are fleeing violence in their home country and that they would likely merit international protection. But only 10 percent of them are getting that protection when they don’t have an attorney making their case; 70 percent get it if they have a lawyer. For many of these children, these court decisions have life or death consequences.
This treatment of children is not worthy of our court system, of our country.
Our government should provide every one of these children with government-funded attorneys.
Other actions we should take to help these children:
Please stand up for unaccompanied immigrant children. Don’t just stand by.
NYPL to Facebook: Read Enrique’s Journey
Mark Zuckerberg, cofounder and CEO of Facebook, has launched an online book club. And New York City’s public librarians say Enrique’s Journey should be one of the books tackled this year.
Do you agree? Let Zuckerberg know.
Zuckerberg’s reading club will “emphasize learning about new cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies.” He has encouraged people to read the books with him and post comments.
In a blog posted Feb. 3, Lynn Lobash, manager of reader services at New York Public Library, explained how Zuckerberg has asked for book suggestions. “The inevitable comparisons to Oprah have been made, and feelings and opinions about either celebrity or their enterprise aside, it is pretty powerful to be able to select a book for hundreds of thousands of people to read together,” she wrote.
Then she revealed the books nominated by NYPL librarians.
Lois Moore, a librarian in Mid-Manhattan, suggested Enrique’s Journey. “It made me look at the immigration dilemma with fresh eyes. Nazario won a Pulitzer in 2003 for her original series of articles in the Los Angeles Times. Yes, I cried.”
Other books recommended by NYPL were: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov; Feed by MT Anderson; Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely; What We Have Done: An Oral History of the Disability Rights Movement by Fred Pelka; An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks; Who Owns the Future by Jaron Lanier; The Internet is Not the Answer by Andrew Keen; Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado; Zen Flesh, Zen Bones compiled by Paul Rep; Nightfall and Other Stories by Isaac Asimov; White Tiger by Aravind Adiga; The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her Western Doctors and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman; Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America by Barbara Ehrenreich; Four Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream by Joshua Davis; Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides; The Crusades Through Arab Eyes Amin Maalouf; The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs; If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie; The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose; and Bruchko by Bruce Olsen.
Sonia Nazario Named Champion for Children
The First Focus Campaign for Children, a national bipartisan children’s advocacy group, announced today that it was honoring journalist Sonia Nazario for her leadership on issues important to children.
The First Focus Campaign for Children routinely recognizes members of Congress who advance policy to improve the health and well-being of children. The organization occasionally recognizes journalists whose work documents the impact of federal policy on the lives of children. In recognizing Ms. Nazario as a Champion for Children, the advocacy group cited her career-long track record of excellence in journalism exploring policy debates that matter for children.
“Journalists often cover political debates without ever exploring the critical impact on children,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the Campaign for Children. “Sonia Nazario connected the dots, and her work has made children a priority for voters and policymakers.”
For more than 20 years Nazario has explored critical children’s policy issues, including childhood hunger and the consequences for children of a parent’s drug addiction. More recently, Nazario turned a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of Los Angeles Times articles into Enrique’s Journey. The national bestseller chronicles a 16-year-old boy’s odyssey from Honduras to the United States, driven by a need to reunite with a mother he had not seen in eleven years. During the recent debate regarding the increase of child migrants fleeing Central America, Nazario became an advocate for these children by sharing Enrique’s story before Congress, with major media outlets, and through numerous public speaking engagements.
“America’s broken immigration policy tears thousands of children from their parents every year and puts children in harm’s way, but most Americans never see the human consequences,” said Lesley. “Sonia Nazario challenges voters and policymakers to look into the faces of children who suffer every day because of Washington’s failure.”
The advocacy organization recognized as “Champions for Children” 50 Members of Congress for their extraordinary efforts to protect and improve the future of America’s next generation. An additional 50 Members were recognized as “Defenders of Children” for their support of policies that advance the well-being of children. Nazario was the only journalist recognized as a Champion for Children.
From Journalist to Social Activist
Speaking for Children
This year I stepped away from my comfort zone of detached journalist and became a social activist. In the spring and summer of 2014, thousands of young migrants were being detained each month at the border and then more than two-thirds faced federal immigration proceedings without legal representation, which made getting permission to stay in the U.S. legally nearly impossible. Children who likely merited protection were being sent back to some of the most dangerous countries on Earth in Central America. I was horrified. I have covered the issue of unaccompanied immigrant children for 15 years. My 2006 book, Enrique’s Journey, explored the dangers and threats facing these children through the experience of one boy, and the modern-day odyssey these children go on to reach the U.S. I knew the dangers these children faced. I had to speak out.
I returned to Honduras and penned an opinion article for the New York Times, The Children of the Drug Wars. I appeared before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee (pictured above). I did many television, newspaper and radio interviews (including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Morning Joe, Anderson Cooper 360). I also gave more than 60 speeches around the country, explaining the issue to both young and old, educators and lawyers, religious groups and philanthropists, social activists and library patrons.
A Christmas Story
My travels this year took me from Murrieta, California to McAllen, Texas. I witnessed the best and worst of humanity. In Murrieta, I saw hate: anti-immigrant activists shouting at buses taking immigrant children to a detention facility. In McAllen, I saw people come together with a purpose to help.
Residents of McAllen, a border town, saw dirty, scared women and their young children at a local bus station. These women and children — some as young as a few days old — had just been released by the U.S. Border Patrol to join relatives or friends as they await their immigration court dates. The locals took them to Sacred Heart Catholic Church, which overnight became a relief center.
As the word spread, volunteers streamed in from 28 states to extend a helping hand to these strangers. Jews, Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists came together. They faced down people who arrived from Houston and California, who wielded pistols and signs telling the women to get out, that their toddlers were criminals here to bring America harm.
Among the volunteers were a father and his eight and ten year old daughters from North Texas. His youngest daughter had watched news about the migrants on TV. “Isn’t there something we can do to help?” she had asked. Others simply said: “I was moved. And so I came.” On the fourth of July, the church had 1,000 volunteers — doctors, lawyers, retirees, stay at home moms, local students — three times the number of migrants needing assistance.
The night I was at the church, when women walked into the church salon, volunteers hugged them and called out, “Bienvenidos!” Welcome. Women who had lived in utter terror during the journey north, some of them having faced rape and kidnappings, broke down crying as they heard the warm greeting.
Women told me they had been kept in Border Patrol holding cells, called “hieleras” or freezers, because they are very cold. They say they slept for five nights on the concrete floor with their children. There were no beds, no shower and not enough food. Among them was a three-day-old baby.
Sister Norma Pimentel, the righteous nun who runs the relief center, said, “We are not doing anything political. We are extending a hand — one human to another.”
Refugees Not Immigrants
I consider many of these children — not all — to be refugees. Why? Unlike an immigrant, who sets off for a new land to better their lives, a refugee is someone who must flee their country primarily for safety because their government cannot or will not protect them. If they stay, they face persecution and possible death.
President Obama’s recent executive actions will temporarily legalize millions of adults and mean fewer citizen children will be separated from parents who are in the U.S. unlawfully. But I am angry that this administration and many in Congress have done little to protect the children fleeing Central America’s violence. Instead they tried to eliminate a 2008 law that ensured these children have a right to plead their asylum cases before an immigration judge; tried to ram the cases through the courts as quickly as possible, sometimes turning due process into a sham process; and allowed immigrant children to go before judges with no government-appointed lawyers to help them argue their case.
Finally, and perhaps most important, the administration has pushed governments to the south–Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala–to interdict these children before they reach the U.S. border and send them back to their home countries, sometimes to deadly fates. A July study by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found 48% of apprehended children “said they had experienced serious harm or had been threatened by organized criminal groups.”
I have worked closely with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), a nonprofit founded by Microsoft and Angelina Jolie that recruits pro bono attorneys to represent unaccompanied minors. Despite recruiting nearly 9,000 pro bono attorneys to represent a child, KIND estimates more than 70% of children are still standing before a judge without anyone to help them mount and present complex immigration asylum cases, even though the stakes in the outcome can mean life or death.
What You Can Do
If you want to help these children:
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
On July 28, 2014, Sonia Nazario spoke with Jon Stewart about why many immigrant children coming to the U.S. are refugees, deserve full fair immigration hearings, and why our political leaders must do right by these children.
Morning Joe with Mika
On the morning of July 28, 2014, Sonia Nazario appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to talk about the need to give undocumented children currently being held at the U.S. border a “real chance” at asylum if they are fleeing Central America’s growing violence.
Sonia talks with Anderson Cooper
Sonia Nazario appeared on Anderson Cooper 360 in early July to talk about the violent conditions in Honduras that migrant children are fleeing, and what can be done at our borders to help.
Sonia Nazario Testifies Before the Senate
On Thursday, July 17, 2014, Sonia Nazario gave testimony before the U.S. Senate on behalf of the children detained at the U.S.-Mexico border who, she says, are refugees of the drug war that has left their hometowns in Honduras in the control of violent gangs.
A Refugee Crisis, Not an Immigration Crisis
Recently, Sonia Nazario traveled to Honduras to report on the inescapable violence that is driving Honduran children north. She wrote the cover story for the New York Times’ Sunday Review.
The U.S. Faces Dilemma on Fate of Immigrant Children
NBC’s Meet The Press talks with Sonia Nazario about the growing dilemma the nation faces when it comes to unaccompanied migrant children and the question that must be asked: should they be sent back to the often times dangerous countries they are fleeing?
Enrique’s Journey Still Relevant As More Children Than Ever Before Make Trip North
Sonia Nazario appeared on Univision’s Al Punto with Jorge Ramos to discuss her book, La Travesia de Enrique, and the relevance of Enrique’s story in this Spanish language interview.
Humanitarian Crisis: U.S. Not Prepared for Growing Number of Child Migrants
Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman talks with Sonia Nazario and Jose Luis Zelaya, a Ph.D. student at Texas A&M who fled Honduras at 13, about why children migrate alone to the U.S. and what can be done to help.
On Point Covers Rising Number of Unaccompanied Child Migrants
Boston NPR’s Tom Ashbrook, host of On Point, interviewed Sonia Nazario on the growing number of child migrants flooding the U.S. border in search of a better life.
NPR Here & Now with Sonia Nazario
Sonia Nazario appeared on NPR’s Here & Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson to talk about her updated version of Enrique’s Journey, and the growing number of unaccompanied minors making the same dangerous trek Enrique made to reach their mothers or flee danger in their home countries.
Reddit Ask Me Anything
Sonia Nazario spent a couple of hours on reddit’s Ask Me Anything answering user’s questions about Enrique’s Journey.
Kids In Need of Legal Defense
Sonia Nazario spoke to local news station NBC 4 about her work as a board member of the nonprofit Kids In Need of Defense helping to recruit pro bono attorneys to represent immigrant children.
The Latino Author Q&A
Sonia Nazario answered questions about her writing life for The Latino Author.
Jacket Copy covers Enrique’s Journey
The Los Angeles Times’ Hector Tobar writes a wonderful update about Enrique for the Times’ Jacket Copy blog. In the article, Sonia Nazario talks about her visit to the Florida jail where Enrique was held for more than a year as he waited for a decision on his request to stay in the U.S. legally.
Enrique’s Journey released with updated and new content and photos
Random House is releasing an updated and revised version of Enrique’s Journey on February 11, 2014! This new version has a new epilogue about the family, immigration chapter, and updated photos of Enrique and his family. It has additional aids for book clubs and readers: a Q&A with Sonia Nazario, a transcript of a 2013 interview with Enrique, and discussion questions. You can order your copy from your favorite vendor on the home page of this site.
Click here for the official press release.
Enrique’s Journey for young adults honored
Enrique’s Journey adapted for young adults was picked for the 2014 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People [sponsored by the Children’s Book Council and the National Council for the Social Studies].
Urging the U.S. to Provide Immigrant Children with Representation
Here is a great piece that aired on Fusion TV yesterday in which I call on the U.S. to provide government-funded attorneys so that no immigrant child faces going to court alone.
Enrique’s Journey a Top Teen Non-Fiction Novel
Exciting news: Kirkus, among the nation’s most prominent book review magazines, just named Enrique’s Journey adapted for young adults one of its top teen non-fiction books. Only three other titles were selected.
Sonia Nazario spoke at various places in Atlanta, GA recently, including Emory University. She had a great time meeting and talking with students while there.
Kids Risk It All to Find Moms in U.S.
Helena Oliviero recently interviewed Sonia Nazario for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Enrique’s Journey was featured on the New York Times’ learning blog Text to Text, a resource for teachers who want to compare literary works with other similarly themed content.
My Take on Immigration in the New York Times
Why do we keep trying the same three approaches when it comes to unlawful migration? In this op-ed, I suggest a better way.
Teaching Guide Geared To New Common Core Teaching Standards Issued forYoung Adult Version of Enrique’s Journey
Random House has issued this wonderful teaching guide, with discussion questions and activities, geared to helping teachers use Enrique’s Journey in conjunction with the nation’s new Common Core Standards for teaching. The book, completely revised to be used in the seventh grade on up in middle school and with reluctant readers in high school, was published Aug. 27, 2013. It will be issued in Spanish next year.
Why the United Nations Should View Migration More as an International Development Issue
In June I addressed the United Nations and spoke about the shift that is needed in our approach toward migration issues. The UN Chronicle has just published a piece I wrote that explains what these issues are and how they affect migrants coming to the U.S.
The UN will meet October 3 & 4 in a high level meeting to discuss how to better address global migration.
Eleven Cities Have Adopted Enrique’s Journey As a Community Read!
The list grows longer: Watsonville, California chooses Enrique’s Journey as its 2013-2014 On The Same Page read.So far, eleven cities, from Denver to San Diego, have adopted the book as their community read.
Listen to Sonia Nazario on KPCC’s Take Two, where she discusses a recent train derailment in Mexico and talks about the dangers migrants face traveling on top of trains to get to the U.S.
Another One City Read: Davis, California picks Enrique’s Journey as its 2013 Davis Reads.
Enrique’s Journey for young people, to be released next month, has received a coveted starred review from Kirkus Reviews. The review says my narrative “Provides a human face, both beautiful and scarred, for the undocumented—a must-read.” Readers, it says, will not want to miss the updated Epilogue, which “allows readers who are moved by Enrique to follow the family’s tragedies and triumphs since the book’s original publication; the journey does not end upon reaching the United States.” The new edition is for middle schoolers and reluctant readers.
Sonia Nazario addressed the United Nations at its Panel Discussion on International Migration and Development on June 25th. She spoke about how to better manage global migration. The meeting was designed to prepare UN delegates for a session in October where the UN hopes to make immigration policy decisions.
Sonia Nazario giving the keynote speech on April 26, 2013 at Harvard University’s “Crossing Borders: Immigration and Gender in the Americas” conference.
Sonia Nazario had an Op-Ed published in the New York Times addressing the critical need for greater legal representation for immigrant children who come to the United States alone.
Randomhouse has released the cover for the young adult version of Enrique’s Journey. Publication date: August 27, 2013!
Here is Eric Altman’s public service announcement teasing Denverites to read Enrique’s Journey