Joseph Sabino Mistick: Mother’s Day at home & at the border
In 2014, Jeb Bush had not yet announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president when he said that refugees crossed our border “because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family.”
Most of his potential opponents had little to say at the time, but his comments would be turned against him as the campaign heated up and the refugees at our border were portrayed as people to be feared. Bush knew that his words were politically risky, but he still spoke from his heart and from his own experience, willing to pay the price.
Columba, Bush’s wife and the mother of his children, is from Mexico. She became a naturalized American citizen after they were married, but she had grown up poor and knew the plight of her neighbors, friends and family. And she knew the role of strong mothers who would do anything to give their children a chance at better lives.
Mother’s Day is a celebration of the love and sacrifice of our mothers. The eternal bond of motherhood has been celebrated since ancient Greece and Rome. In the United States, the formal holiday was started in the early 20th century by Anna Jarvis, and later formalized by President Woodrow Wilson.
This is the day to marvel at the dedication of our own mother. But if you want to consider the blessing of motherhood generally, look no further than the refugee mothers at our border, those mothers who have put everything on the line for their children — even facing the agony of separation — if it means that their children will have a shot at safety and happiness.
They continue to stream from Honduras, Guatemala and Honduras, escaping certain violence for the outside chance that they will be granted asylum in the United States. And, as difficult as it has been made for them here, the gamble for a good life is far better than anything they left.
TIME recently reported the story of Suyapa Lopez, a Honduran single mother whose sons disappeared in 2016 after crossing into the wrong neighborhood, the domain of a deadly gang. The police are part of the problem and they have refused to help.
“Imagine how it feels, a mother destroyed and without help from anybody. Just asking God to open the doors,” she said.
Photojournalist Myrto Papadopoulos, who covered the story of Syrian refugee mothers for National Geographic, described what motivates them to make the harrowing trip for even an outside shot at happiness.
“The idea of having a family while being in transit — it’s the reason for them to exist. To keep on going. And to keep on believing in a better life.”
A mother’s love is universal. As you think about your own mother this Mother’s Day, consider all that she has sacrificed and would sacrifice for you, especially in the toughest times. And think about those mothers pressing on our borders — risking everything — so their children can have a better future, too.
Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer. Reach him at [email protected].