Learning and Heartbreak From Kids at the Border

Yesterday I spent the day at Kino Border Initiative with members of the Florence Project, witnessing the important work they are doing to help migrants understand their rights and the process of applying for asylum within the US (when and if they are actually allowed to enter).

The Kino Border Initiative facility is quite impressive and the services they offer are critical.

I sat in on a session that the Florence Project held with groups who had signed up ahead of time. There were 5 families signed up to learn more about asylum and share their stories. Among these families were 5 kids ranging in age from an infant up to about 7 years old. They all came into the room quietly and sat on one of the chairs. I could tell that these kids were used to staying close to their parents and sitting quietly while they navigated next steps.

One of the Florence Project’s staff had brought a bag of crayons, I found a large pad of paper, and looked at the kids hoping to spark their interest. They all stared at me, interested but cautious. So, I sat down on the floor and started to draw. One by one they joined me and quickly became a group of 5-7 year old kids, most likely making more noise than was truly desirable, but nobody cared. They were happy.

Here are some moments that will stay with me from my time with them…

One of the boys was incredibly artistic and it made me wonder what his life back home had been like and his dreams for the future. He truly came to life as he put the crayons to the paper. While we drew, his mother shared her story with the Florence Project. She was fleeing violence, had seen family members killed, and fled with her son in search of a safer place.

I know that individuals and families from Central America are not getting through our asylum system right now. Their chances are incredibly slim, and this fact is bringing tears to my eyes as I write this down to share with you.

They deserve a better future. That little boy deserves to explore art, and live in a safe place where he can follow his dreams and passions.

As we continued drawing, one of the other boys started to laugh as he drew a picture of me. What started as a giggle quickly erupted into full blown laughter - the type that leaves tears streaming down your face. Once he started, he couldn’t stop, and I couldn’t help but join him. His laughter was pure release. You could almost feel him letting go with each minute of laughter that passed. I will carry his joy and release with me for quite some time. I can actually feel it in my body as I sit and recall this moment.

These kids were wonderful, their parents are wonderful, and they all deserve a right to be safe and free.

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