WASHINGTON — They come alone. They come in groups. They know it’s against the law, but the immigrants who come to the U.S. from El Salvador, Guatemala and other Central American countries say all they want is a chance at a better life.
The stories of the unaccompanied minors — children — making the journey all alone have made national headlines. The staffers at CASA de Maryland, an organization dedicated to serving immigrants no matter what their legal status, say there are many such stories. And there are others, such as a woman CASA de Maryland identified only as Hortencia.
The mother of two from Guatemala had already been in the United States, sending money back home so her son’s grandparents could care for her boys, 10-year-old Abner and 8-year-old Humberto. But that’s not what was happening.
Speaking through an interpreter at the offices of CASA de Maryland, Hortencia explained the money wasn’t getting to her boys. They were barefoot and hungry and going without medical care.
She decided to go back and bring them both into the United States to stay with her.
Maria Sandoval, a communications specialist with CASA, translated as Hortencia explained how she made the trip.
“They traveled by bus, up from Guatemala all the way through Mexico, hiding basically,” Sandoval translated.
Then, at the U.S. border, they had to cross the Rio Grande. When Hortencia talks about it, she uses the Mexican name for the river — Rio Bravo, which is sometimes translated as the “Angry River.”
Sandoval asks Hortencia about the boat she and her children were herded onto.
“It was a little raft, and these rafts, they’re not in good condition,” Hortencia nods as Sandoval translates. “I mean, the water filters in, and some of them are scared to death that you know, they’re going to drown.”
Now, Hortencia is getting assistance from CASA and says she “hope[s] the president will give permission” for her family to stay.
Hortencia tells her story on the same day that Prince George’s County Schools Superintendent Kevin Maxwell announces that the county schools will work with CASA and the Internationals Network for Public Schools to open two new schools for English-language learners.
The details have not been worked out. The schools will be a sort of hybrid of charter/public school and the locations haven’t been selected. But Maxwell says the mission is clear.
“We have an obligation, a moral and ethical obligation to deal with the children that enroll in our schools. And this is meeting that obligation,” Maxwell says.
In case he hadn’t made himself clear, Maxwell added for emphasis, “Our responsibility is to teach our children. And we’re going to teach our children.”
The two schools, which will enroll a total of roughly 800 students, are expected to open in the 2015-2016 academic year.