Stories for Liberation: The River In Between

(Painting/"The River In Between"/Gwynne Duncan)

As conditions for immigrant children reach unspeakable lows, an honors student from Central Islip High School remembers what it was like to be 8 years old, trying to return to her mother. As her heart goes out to the children of today facing conditions far worse than those she can remember we must join her in waking any hearts that are sleeping and listen to her words.

The River In Between

I look around me as I lie down on this soil. It is different. They are different now, or at least they’ll have to be. We will all soon have to learn a different language and dress in different ways for a new culture, to “fit in.” However, we shall never forget where we came from because it’s in our blood, even though our feet are leaving our homes behind.

I look up at the trees as I try to cover every part of my body so animals won’t touch me. Our hearts are beating in sync with the stars above us. The trees are our guards here, next to the river we just crossed. People around me joke about how fascinating it would be if our coyote brought coffee and bread in the morning, but they will be disappointed. I remember that back home, my wake-up call was the smell of coffee and bread. My lunch and dinner were composed of tortillas with salt, and even though I had grown tired of them, they didn’t seem so bad anymore as I lie here hungry as ever.

We weren’t planning on sleeping here, isolated and yet exposed to so many dangers, where our beds consisted of rocks and twigs. We had to cross a swamp, jump a fence, and crawl under wires just to retrace our steps and go back. Our coyote remained behind brushing off our steps on the dust path we just ran on. And, we waited anxiously for him to return. He is our guide and our hope to lead us to the right path.

I am 8 years old, sleeping next to strangers. Part of my family is in El Salvador, and the other is in the U.S. It was brave of me to come, I recognize that, but it was even more brave for my mom to have the apple of her eye exposed to such circumstances. I thank her for being so brave and letting me go on this journey. Her heart was strong.

That was eight years ago, things have changed. My heart goes out to those mothers who take the risk of letting their children come on such a hard path. My heart also goes to those innocent little souls who are treated like criminals, just because this country refuses to recognize them as human beings. They’re kept in isolated cold rooms and given cardboard boxes to use as blankets, while they lie on the floor to rest their tired bodies. When they sleep is the only time they get a break from this harsh reality because the dreams they seek are now living nightmares.

When did America the country that pledged the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness take a step back and think it was okay for little kids to represent themselves in court? They’re only old enough to know children’s nursery rhymes and have yet to learn how to color within the lines of their doodles.