Journalist Lauren Markham’s book, “The Far Away Brothers,” is the story of twin teens who came to the U.S. illegally from El Salvador. They wind up in Oakland, California, trying to start a new life. Markham’s storytelling reveals the intricacies of the U.S. immigration system and the true experience of two unaccompanied minors fleeing gang violence in their home country. She discussed their story with CapRadio’s Donna Apidone.
You talk right up front about the "binary politics of a border wall." Can you explain that a little bit?
Yes absolutely. When I talked about the "binary politics of the border wall," really too often we reduce the conversation around immigration to these very simplified "yes or no" questions: Should we build a wall? Should we not build a wall? Should we rescind DACA? Should we not rescind DACA? These are of course important questions, but the question of immigration is much deeper and complex and much more nuanced than "wall or no wall,""DACA no DACA."
So these two [teens from El Salvador], Raul and Ernesto… how did you find them? How did you meet them?
So I met them at the school where I work. And I had been reporting on this issue for about two years. A coworker at Oakland International High School said, "Hey we really need to do something about all these kids. I have all these kids with upcoming court dates."It sort of hit me like, "what are you talking about? All of these students who have court dates?"
The number of students at our school who are unaccompanied minors had skyrocketed under our noses. In retrospect, that shouldn't have been a surprise because the number was skyrocketing nationally.
Do you have any opinion you're willing to state about some possible solutions? Can our governments ever get together and help? Or do we always just have to do it from crisis?
Right. I think we try to think about immigration as something that happens at, and after, the border. And we litigate immigration at the border. But immigration is something that happens long before that. It's a set of circumstances far away — or relatively close by — where something is happening and a person decides that they should (or have to, in many cases) leave. And there's unfortunately no indications that the violence is stopping in Central America and certainly in El Salvador. Nothing we can do here, if those conditions persist, will stop people from trying to find a way to come. So I guess my answer would be: investing in El Salvador and working with Salvadoran leaders and other countries that are big drivers of immigrants to this country.
Donna Apidone interviewed Lauren Markham on May 17, 2018.