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Live & Local Author Discussions > Chat with Sonia Nazario

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Kent District Library (KentDistrictLibrary) | 63 comments Mod
Good Evening everyone! I am privileged tonight to virtually introduce you to author Sonia Nazario, who has graciously agreed to discuss with us her book, "Enrique's Journey".

I will be speaking for Kent District Library tonight, so let me also introduce myself. I am Penni Speets, Collection Development Library at KDL's Service Center in Comstock Park.

Ms. Nazario, are you online with us yet?

message 2: by Sonia (new)

Sonia Nazario (SoniaNazario) | 9 comments I am! Very nice to be here and to answer any and all questions, thank you Ms. Speets for hosting this chat.

Kent District Library (KentDistrictLibrary) | 63 comments Mod
It looks like Sandy has the first question, one that I have heard from many of our patrons who have read the book. What makes the children keep coming? Missing their mothers? A search for a better life?

message 4: by Sonia (new)

Sonia Nazario (SoniaNazario) | 9 comments I'm also looking forward to speaking next Monday and Tuesday, March 31 & April 1, in Wyoming, MI for your one city read program.

Kent District Library (KentDistrictLibrary) | 63 comments Mod
I am so glad you mentioned that. I could not show my face in the library if we hadn't during our discussion. I am thrilled that we can all see you in person as well.

Kent District Library (KentDistrictLibrary) | 63 comments Mod
Many of our patrons have also been very curious to have updates, updates on Enrique's family, on how changes in US policy have or have not affected this dangerous route.

Kent District Library (KentDistrictLibrary) | 63 comments Mod
And I personally would like to hear more about your very dangerous journey researching Enrique's.

message 8: by Sonia (new)

Sonia Nazario (SoniaNazario) | 9 comments Children like Enrique make this journey, even knowing the dangers for several reasons. Some are abused by their parents in their home countries, and they are escaping places that have no extensive child welfare system that might be able to help. Others are so desperate to earn money they are willing to take these risks, because the job prospects in their home countries are so non-existent. Mostly, children are willing to do this because staying at home now is even more dangerous. Honduras, the country Enrique left, has the highest homicide rate in the world. Gangs and narco-trafficking cartels control large parts of the country, and battle for control over turf to move drugs north to the U.S. through central america. They go to elementary and junior highs and tell boys: join us to help move drugs, kill people, or kidnap people, or we will kill you and your family. So many children now are fleeing forced gang recruitment. They are fleeing for their very lives. These children are also going north in many cases to be with a parent, but increasingly the prime motivator is to stay one step ahead of the gangs. Before, parents told their children to stay in central america, that life in inner cities in the U.S. was too dangerous. Now, the parents know that life in central america is much more dangerous, so they are more willing to bring their children up -- even knowing the dangers along the way. A relative of Enrique's recently came up, and he estimates a third of those making the journey through Mexico are kidnapped and relatives in the U.S. are extorted for money.
As long as conditions in central america continue to deteriorate, people will brave unimaginable dangers to get to the U.S.

Kent District Library (KentDistrictLibrary) | 63 comments Mod
Do you see any signs or have any hope that there will be positive change in Honduras. Can we in the US do anything to help effect that change?

message 10: by Marlys (new)

Marlys | 7 comments Hi, Sonia -- Marlys here. What struck me about your book was how persistent Enrique was. Are most of the children so determined to find their mothers that they try to get here over & over, even when they are deported multiple times?

message 11: by Sonia (new)

Sonia Nazario (SoniaNazario) | 9 comments Enrique's family has had many ups and downs in recent years. The economic recession hit immigrants hardest, and especially immigrants that worked in construction [Enrique paints houses]. A lot of construction came to a halt, so Enrique's step-father lost his house painting business.
Enrique has also struggled with on and off drug use. He is a little better now, and he just married his long-time girlfriend, María Isabel. I was also happy to hear that he reached out to his father, who basically abandoned Enrique as a young boy. Before Christmas, Enrique called his father in Honduras to talk to him, and even sent him some money for the holidays. So there are signs that Enrique has begun to heal some of the scars that came with being separated from his mother for 11 years and abandoned by his father.
Of course, the best thing to happen to him was to get a visa, that now allows him to stay in the U.S. legally. He was locked up for 14 months in 2012 & 2013, and was facing deportation, which would have taken him away from his two children. He was very lucky to get a visa. President Obama is on the verge of having deported 2 million immigrants. Hundreds of thousands of these are parents who have U.S. born children who remain in the U.S. when their parents are deported. So the story of Enrique's Journey plays out in reverse and parents and children are again separated.

message 12: by Sonia (new)

Sonia Nazario (SoniaNazario) | 9 comments Marlys: I think persistence comes from desperation. They don't have a choice to go back to Honduras. Things are so bad there, that in one weekend, 38 people were murdered in Tegucigalpa, a capital with just 1.1 million people. The government is burying people in mass graves. Surveys show that 30% of Hondurans have been extorted by gangs or narco-cartels for money. Many businesses, taxi and bus drivers and individuals have been approached by the gangs and told they must pay a daily or weekly "war tax" to the gang to not be harmed. There's desperation born of so much risk in being sent back to Honduras. Also, there is pride in not having failed.

Kent District Library (KentDistrictLibrary) | 63 comments Mod
When you were looking for a subject for your book, a boy who went looking for his mother, can you tell us about any of the children you met, but weren't chosen to be in your book. Do their stories vary widely?

message 14: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 1 comments Is Maria Isabel in the US now or is she still in Honduras?

Kent District Library (KentDistrictLibrary) | 63 comments Mod
Sorry to flood you with questions, Sonia, but here are the questions that were asked at the book discussion last Tuesday at the Wyoming branch:

- “How do you account for the savage cruelty exhibited from one human being to another in this century of understanding right/wrong, do unto others…, ethics, morals?”
- “In your opinion, what is the solution to immigration and the immigration laws in the United States?”

- "“Why did you write this book? What did you hope to achieve?”

message 16: by Sonia (new)

Sonia Nazario (SoniaNazario) | 9 comments I think to effect change the U.S. must have a foreign policy centered on creating jobs in four countries sending three-fourths of those coming to the U.S. illegally. We can either keep screaming at each other on both sides of the political divide about illegal immigration, or we can actually try to do something to change the "push" factors driving folks to leave Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico. For one thing, most migrants would rather live where they are from, and not feel forced to leave all they know and love--their family, language, and culture. For another, the three approaches we have taken for decades and continue to try--amped up border enforcement, guest worker programs, and pathways to citizenship--simply haven't worked if the goal is to reduce the flow north permanently. Walls don't work: studies show 97% of migrants who repeatedly try to get into the U.S. succeed. Guestworkers often don't circulate back home like they are supposed to. And when migrants legalize and come out of the shadows, they bring family and friends illegally, causing the numbers of those in this country unlawfully to soar anew. We need a foreign policy that uses every tool we have at our disposal to help create jobs and economic and democratic development in these four countries. We can support education for girls because this lowers birthrates. Provide micro loans to help women start job-generating businesses. Tweak trade policies so specific goods from these countries are given preference over other countries--a preference aimed at stemming the flow of migrants north. We can help hometown associations--groups of migrants from one town living in the U.S. who send money back to help lift up their community--organize some of the $40 billion migrants send back to relatives in Latin America so some of that is used to generate jobs. Finally, we must address the demands for drugs in the U.S., the largest consumer of illegal drugs in the world. We need more drug treatment and innovative programs to address this issue. All of this would likely cost less than the whopping $18 billion we are now spending on border enforcement.

Kent District Library (KentDistrictLibrary) | 63 comments Mod
Thank you for shedding light on these horrifying conditions. We only asked you to spend a half hour with us, so I am so glad that you will be speaking in Wyoming next week.

Sonia will be at the Wyoming library Monday, March 31 at 6:30 pm.

message 18: by Beth (new)

Beth (bibliocat4) | 19 comments Thank you Sonia!

message 19: by Sonia (new)

Sonia Nazario (SoniaNazario) | 9 comments Why did I write this book? First of all I thought it was an incredibly moving story of what a boy will go through--go through a hostile world--to reach his mother. It touched on so many universal themes, and had so many of the elements that make for great story telling: conflict, a question you must have answered, great characters that change over time, etc.
But mostly I wrote this because we are in the greatest period of hostility towards migrants since the Great Depression. Many people hate migrants, even if they don't know one. I thought it was important to show people what is pushing these children and their mothers out of countries like Honduras, what they are willing to do to get through Mexico [no wall is going to stop someone this determined] and who our new neighbors are. Many are women like Lourdes and children like Enrique. For many, reading Enrique's Journey creates an understanding of migrants in our society. I believe immigration has been both good and bad for the U.S. It is not clear-cut. It is an issue with many shades of gray. Overall, our economy benefits enormously, but some people within that society win and some lose due to what has been the biggest influx of immigrants in our nation's history [between 2000 and 2010]. But I think it's very important to understand who these migrants are, to stand in their shoes. If you don't do that, you cannot begin to come up with workable solutions.

message 20: by Alison (new)

Alison | 1 comments I appreciated the way you introduced us to Padre Leo in the book. Was there anyone else you'd like to talk about that didn't make it into the story? And can you tell us about someone you've met recently who's inspiring you?

message 21: by Sonia (new)

Sonia Nazario (SoniaNazario) | 9 comments María Isabel is now in the U.S. She married Enrique a few weeks ago. When he was locked up in a county jail in Florida fighting his deportation, she gave birth to Enrique's second child, Daniel Enrique. I went to the jail to visit Enrique with Lourdes and Enrique's daughter Jasmin. Enrique was in one of the worst jails for migrants in the whole country. He couldn't see visitors in person or even through a glass partition. He could only see visitors from a video screen right outside his jail cell. So Lourdes would go to the visitation room at the jail and hold Enrique's son up to a video monitor there so Enrique could see his son. Enrique never held his son until he was released and the boy was nine months old. He said not touching his son, not being able to hold him, was the hardest thing he's faced, harder than what he encountered on top of those freight trains through Mexico.

Kent District Library (KentDistrictLibrary) | 63 comments Mod
Speaking as Penni now, and not as KDL. I can say that I identified with Enrique as a mother of two boys. It was powerful and humanizing to imagine my sons struggling to be reunited with me. I also put myself in Lourdes place, and am so thankful that I never have to worry where my children's next meal will come from. It makes a world of difference when immigration policy has names and faces behind it.

message 23: by Sonia (new)

Sonia Nazario (SoniaNazario) | 9 comments Thanks everyone!! See you soon! Please tell your friends about my talk on March 31. I'll show compelling photographs, and promise to get a good discussion going.

Kent District Library (KentDistrictLibrary) | 63 comments Mod
Thank you Sonia. Looking forward to your visit!

message 25: by Kent District Library (last edited Jul 14, 2014 05:47PM) (new)

Kent District Library (KentDistrictLibrary) | 63 comments Mod
I wanted to share an update sent to me by Sonia. Here is her e-mail:

I recently traveled to Honduras to spend a week with Enrique's family in order to see the violence that plagues their neighborhood.
I saw firsthand the unimaginable pressures children face day to day to work for the narco/drug traffickers and gangs who now run much of Honduras.
I wrote the cover opinion piece for Sunday's New York Times. In it I describe why proposals by President Obama and many in Congress to shortchange due process and expedite removal of these children will send many of them back to certain deaths. I also offer novel solutions. I hope you'll join me in pushing for the right answers to this crisis. The government will begin deporting mothers and children in large numbers today.
I was also on Anderson Cooper 360 Friday talking about the issue.
I am testifying before the Senate on Thursday in order to urge Congress to take a humane and practical approach to this crisis.
Please help by reading and sharing my story so more people are aware of what’s driving these children to leave their homelands and what awaits many of them if they are returned without due process in the U.S.
Please contact your congressional representatives and share with them your concerns for the safety of these children.
Thank you,
Sonia Nazario
Just released Enrique's Journey Revised and Updated
Subscribe to Sonia’s newsletter

message 26: by Marlys (new)

Marlys | 7 comments Thank you, Sonia! -- Marlys

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