Troubling Times

These are troubling times in terms of the treatment of immigrant children and families arriving at our southern border. Border patrol agents are at times illegally turning away families that ask for asylum. The administration has a new policy of separating parents from their children when they are caught at the border. They are tearing children out of their mother's arms, causing lifelong trauma. The federal government is also moving forward with plans to open military bases to house all those children they tear from parents' arms. 

Most migrants apprehended at our southern border today are from three countries in central america-El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala-that are among the most violent on earth. Unlike in the past, most folks who arrive today at our southern border are refugees, fleeing harm. If you think, as I do, that this isn't who we are as a county, that this violates our core values, join me in signing this petition opposing this policy

And, please join the many readers [see their inspiring stories below] who have found other ways to help. 

Helping Recruit Lawyers to Represent Immigrant Children Who Come to the U.S. Alone 

Last March, I gave a talk at the Seattle Art Museum for Kids In Need of Defense. I am proud to have been on the board of KIND since its inception and over the past decade have helped them any way I can. 

KIND was started a decade ago by Microsoft and Angelina Jolie to ensure that no child who comes to this country alone goes to immigration court without legal representation. KIND has recruited 31,000 pro bono lawyers across this country to help. Unfortunately, half of all children who arrive to the U.S. by themselves still go to immigration court without a lawyer. For me, seeing a 7-year-old shaking like a leaf with fear in a Los Angeles immigration court, provided the push to go from journalist--observer and chronicler--to advocate. 
How could our judicial system ask a child--often toddlers stand before judges by themselves--to fill out dozens of legal forms in English, get expert witnesses, get police reports from corrupt police departments several countries away? How could this sham be happening in America? More than 7 in 10 children with a lawyer win the right to stay in the U.S. legally; without a lawyer, 9 in 10 lose--and face deportation to some of the most violent countries on earth in central america. 

Readers of Enrique's Journey have followed in my footsteps and stepped forward to help, volunteering their time and money. Equally satisfying, I have had many students hear me speak about this travesty. A half dozen have contacted me years later. They say: I decided in that moment to become a lawyer. I went to law school. And now I represent unaccompanied immigrant children. Yay! At KIND's 10 year anniversary gala, three KIND clients--Alex, Ismael, Alejandra--talked about how a lawyer meant the difference between safety and fear. WATCH HERE and GO HERE TO HELP.

Friends of Pastor Pacheco

Chadwick School Student Claire Buchi and Honduras Pastor Daniel Pacheco

Two years ago, I went to Honduras to report a piece for the New York Times about how the U.S. was working in the most violent neighborhoods in Honduras to reduce gang and narco violence. Their goal was to reduce the push factors that force people to migrate. I went to what had been the most violent neighborhood in what for four years in a row was the murder capitol of the world, San Pedro Sula, Honduras. In that neighborhood, Rivera Hernández, Pastor Daniel Pacheco inspired me and kept me alive. Pastor Pacheco repurposed a former gang house into a "Casa de la Esperanza," or House of Hope, and prevented murders by providing Honduran youth with positive outlets, like sports. He is working to dry up the lifeblood of gangs: new recruits. In November, I returned the favor. In a week, the Pastor had been shot at twice by the Honduras' Military Police for being a human rights defender. He came to LA for two months to learn from violence prevention experts while the U.S. Embassy in Honduras worked to rein in those trying to do him harm. 

Pastor Dany now has a network of folks in the U.S. who support his mission. A doctor, Anne Skaron, sends him $500 every few months. A Minnesota lawyer, Sam Myers, sent him 50 league-worthy soccer balls. Polytechnic School in Pasadena heard Pastor Dany speak, and has rallied to send him computers for his youth group and plans to sponsor a couple of soccer teams with equipment emblazoned with the school's name. And then there was Claire Buchi, a girl from Chadwick School in Palos Verdes Peninsula, California, who like so many students read the Pastor's story and was moved. She organized a pizza fundraiser for Pastor Dany at California Pizza Kitchen, and urged her friends to eat there on April 11. The event raised $250, which Pastor Dany is using to finish the roof on a structure he will use for youth meetings.   HERE'S HOW TO HELP PASTOR DANY

Giving Traumatized Migrant Children Music Therapy

Preparing to ship instruments donated by friends and readers of Enrique's Journey to Olga Sánchez Martínez in Chiapas, Mexico

Enrique's Journey includes the story of Olga Sanchez Martinez, an amazing woman in Tapachula, Mexico, who operates the Shelter of Jesus the Good Shepherd, for migrants mutilated from riding on top of freight trains. I remember being stunned the first time I walked in to her shelter: rooms full of adults and children with no arms, legs, feet, fingers. A few years ago, Olga and her daughter, Aracy, opened a second shelter, for women and children. Many who arrive are fleeing death threats in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala and have been raped or harmed on the journey north. 

Olga visited me in LA and told me she wanted to do more than just put a roof over migrants' heads. She wanted to give traumatized migrant children music therapy. Could I help round up some instruments? A plea went out and readers from around the country sent me flutes, saxophones, and guitars. Then the ladies in a bimonthly knitting and jewelry making group I attend in Manhattan Beach, CA, offered to help round up more instruments, and helped pay to get them to Texas. There, Henry Wangeman, the owner of Amate Books in Oaxaca, Mexico, jumped in. He would pay to put the 20 or so instruments in his book shipment from Texas to Mexico. It took a village in the U.S. and Mexico, but in February Olga received the instruments she will use to heal the mental wounds so many migrant children carry. 

Upcoming Events

Each year I travel across the country--from conferences to colleges to high schools and middle schools--to share my thoughts about immigration and how Enrique's story and those of so many immigrant children continues to change. 

If your school or group would like to book Sonia, email her at

Indianapolis, IN
August 20, 2018
Butler University

Downey, CA
August 23, 2018
Los Angeles County Office of Education
Leadership Conference

Bakersfield, CA
October 11, 2018
California Humanities

Kansas City, KS
October, 2018
Kansas Humanities

Los Angeles, CA
April 19, 2019
East Los Angeles College

AND OTHERS near you... I hope to see you at one of my upcoming events. 

Sonia Nazario | Email    |  Website
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