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Young Central American Refugees Share Theirs Stories In Their Own Words

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"Solito, Solita: Crossing Borders with Youth Refugees from Central America" is a new book that features the stories of 15 young migrants who left home to seek asylum in the U.S.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 President Trump has called it a national emergency. He's talking about the hundreds of migrants seeking asylum at the u s Mexico border. His administration has introduced a number of programs aimed at discouraging people from making the journey to the border, but there has been little effort to explain why so many people are risking everything to try to enter the U s a new book documents the stories of 15 young Central American migrants who several years ago left their home countries to seek asylum in the u s they reveal what they were escaping, what they endured along the journey, and what they found once they got here. The book is called Solitos Lolita crossing borders with youth refugees from Central America and joining me as the books editor, a Pulitzer Prize winning former editorial writer for the San Diego Tribune. Jonathan Freedman. Jonathan, welcome to the program.

Speaker 2: 00:51 Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1: 00:53 Yeah. You've been writing about the big picture politics of immigration for decades, but for this book, the focuses on human stories. Why, why that change?

Speaker 2: 01:03 Well, my co-editor Steven mayors and I became very concerned in the year 2014 when suddenly thousands of children of young people, teenagers, mothers with kids and kids as young as nine and 10 years old, started crossing the u s border right at San Diego. And of course the news was shocking, but having written about this for many years on the border, I saw a new group of people. These are young people. Why were they coming? Who were they? What had happened to them inside their lives, in their, in their homes to make them leave and why were they crossing, you know, the very dangerous Mexico to get here and what was happening to them when they reached the border us border and what was happening to them inside United States.

Speaker 1: 01:52 This book is made up of stories coming from interviews conducted with a number of these young people. Can you tell us about what drove some of the people profiled in the book to make the journey?

Speaker 2: 02:03 Is he young woman named Soledad Castillo? She was growing up in Honduras in her family, had the poorest house in the barrio as a young girl, she was sexually abused by her stepfather. She was sent to work as a child, labor in the, in the nearby capitol, and she got sick. She recovered and begged her father who had worked in the United States to bring her to the United States. She was 14 at the time.

Speaker 1: 02:32 Jonathan, do you think you could read an excerpt for us from solid odd story?

Speaker 2: 02:38 I'd be very, very happy to the SEC serp just called. I just remember their hands. It took more than one month to get to the United States. The three of us left Honduras and went to Guatemala on the bus. My Dad sat in the front seat and I sat behind with other people. There were gangsters on board. First One guy took out a gun and then the other guys did too. They put a gun to my head, telling me to give them all my money. I didn't have money, but they didn't believe me. They took my pants off. I don't remember their faces. I just remember their hands. I remember hands touching me all over my body and I couldn't say anything. At that time. I was 14,

Speaker 1: 03:29 Jonathan Freedman reading from the book he's edited. So solita and Jonathan, I want to ask you a question about that title because what we hear mostly about today, our caravans, uh, of of young people at people coming from Central America to seek asylum in the u s yet the title of this book means alone alone. Can you talk about the significance of the title?

Speaker 2: 03:53 Yes. Uh, we were interviewing one of our first, um, refugees, a young man named Adrienne who had been shot and stabbed and left for dead by a gang in El Salvador. Neat. We interviewed him. He told us his story, why he left and he kept muttering to himself. So Lita Salita, that means alone alone, he's, there are thousands and thousands of people who are refugees. Each one is traveling alone. These stories are important, we believe because each is an individual person. They have very, very different stories, but they all in a sense are traveling alone.

Speaker 1: 04:36 The excerpt that you read for us, that terrible experience. That's solid dot. Casio had on her way to the u s she's actually made quite a success here in the u s she's now a US citizen. Isn't that right?

Speaker 2: 04:49 Not only is she a u s citizen, she put herself through community college, City College of San Francisco and then graduated from San Francisco State University.

Speaker 1: 05:02 Jonathan, what's happened to some of the other people whose stories are told in the book? Are they all happy endings like solar downs?

Speaker 2: 05:11 I wish they were, but they're not. This is a book of real lives and real lives have many different kinds of endings. One of one of our narrators nim posts way came here. He idolized his father who was a uh, coconut grower and he had to flee because of the gangs and when hosts way God here. He just told me how much he loved his father, how you wanted to be like his father. And a few months after our first interview, he got word that his father had been murdered by the gang back in El Salvador

Speaker 1: 05:42 and book we've been talking about is Solitos Lolita crossing borders with youth refugees from Central America. It was edited by my guests, Jonathan Freedman and by Stephen Myers. Jonathan, thank you very much for your time and for talking to us about your book.

Speaker 2: 05:57 Thank you so much.

Speaker 3: 06:05 Okay.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.