They are a mass migration of thousands, yet each one travels solito, solita, alone, alone.
While news of caravans and border walls has been top of mind for months, so rarely do we get to hear from the people most impacted – asylum seekers – about their experiences coming to the United States.
Our new book, Solito, Solita: Crossing Borders with Youth Refugees from Central America, is an urgent collection of oral histories that tells—in their own words—the story of young refugees fleeing countries in Central America and traveling for hundreds of miles to seek safety and protection in the United States.
Fifteen narrators describe why they fled their homes, what happened on their dangerous journeys through Mexico, how they crossed the borders, and for some, their ongoing struggles to survive in the United States. In an era of fear, xenophobia, and outright lies, these stories amplify the compelling and seldom heard voices of migrant youth.
We hope that these stories inspire you as a reader to learn more about the experiences of young people working toward for a better life across the US border, and take action toward positive immigration reform. The following are 10 actions you can take to show solidarity with refugees from Central America:
1. Volunteer your skills.
Volunteer to use your special skills. Can you design a flyer, write an article, analyze a legal brief? These and many other skills can be invaluable to underfunded and understaffed non-profits working to support immigrants and refugees in your community.
2. Use the power of your voice and vote.
Learn about US policies in Central America and voice your opinions. Let your local, state, and federal representatives know that caring for young migrants and DACA students are priorities for you. Write an email that clearly states your views and forward it to your friends and acquaintances to circulate.
3. Be generous.
Make monetary donations to the general operating funds of nonprofit organizations such as Kids in Need of Defense and the National Immigrant Justice Center. Consider sponsoring REDODEM, the network of casas de migrantes in Mexico. Support local organizations in Central America that are working to combat violence and protect human rights. For example, the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e In- dígenas de Honduras, COPINH), founded by Berta Cáceres, works to protect the rights of Indigenous Lenca people. Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña, OFRANEH) works to protect Garifuna rights.
4. Be a friend to newcomers and refugees.
Look for migrant service agencies in your area that assist youth refugees from Central America. See if you can work with small groups of refugees or one-on-one to help them transition to their new home.
5. Support initiatives to keep families together and reunite children with relatives.
When kids are separated from their families, they can fall prey to gangs, drug abuse, and exploitation.
6. Take action in local schools.
If you are an educator or parent, petition local school officials to provide academic and social programs to help migrants and their families. Learn about and support schools like Oakland International High School.
7. Consider being a foster parent, legal guardian, or sponsor for a child awaiting immigration proceedings.
Contact local organizations that help refugees find temporary homes.
8. Promote initiatives that combat rape, child abuse, domestic violence, and sex trafficking in Central America, Mexico, and the United States.
Consider supporting organizations such as the International Women’s Health Coalition that are seeking to reduce teenage pregnancy and promote healthy choices for women in Central America.
9. Show solidarity.
Put an “Immigrants and Refugees Welcome Here” sign in your window at home or at work to publicly show your support. Down- load a poster for free at www.newamericanstoryproject.org.
Share this book’s narratives with people to stimulate discussions. Organize a group of friends to read and discuss the book and suggest it to your local librarian.