Child immigrants are suddenly at the heart of the illegal immigration debate—which strikes a chord with Pablo Alvarado, the executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, because once he led his teenage little brother to the US for much the same reason: to escape violence in their El Salvador homeland. "I can see the faces of those we traveled with in the photos of those children crowded into detention centers," he writes for CNN. The right is forever discussing immigrants as criminals, but those faces, "huddled and scared, hoping and vulnerable, defy vilification."
Immigration hawks would have you believe that children are coming because the US made it too appealing. But "my brother and I did not leave our parents behind, only to be assaulted on a month-long journey north and witness the worst, including people dying, because we simply wanted to," Alvarado writes. "We came because it was our opportunity to survive," to flee a war the Reagan Administration helped fuel by funding militants in El Salvador. They felt they had no choice, and today's immigrant children don't either. We need to understand what they're fleeing—and how culpable the US may be for it. Click for Alvarado's full column.