“The Book of Rosy: A Mother’s Story of Separation at the Border,” by Rosayra Pablo Cruz and Julie Schwietert Collazo (HarperOne)
It’s easy to see why people in Guatemala and other Central American nations are willing to leave what little they have for a long, difficult and dangerous trek to try to slip into the United States. Guatemala’s economy and social systems barely function, gangs demand protection money from shopkeepers such as Rosy Pablo Cruz and the narcotics trade corrupts everything.
Rosy herself was shot and her oldest son threatened by gangs. Her husband was murdered – why and by whom is never discovered.
Rather than a dispassionate rendering of one mother’s journey to the U.S. border, “The Book of Rosy: A Mother’s Story of Separation at the Border,” by Rosayra Pablo Cruz and Julie Schwietert Collazo tips into advocacy against the Trump administration policy of separating parents from their children if they are caught entering the United States illegally.
Unfortunately, Rosy’s actions sometimes are less than admirable.
On her first trip to the United States, she took only her younger son, fathered by a married man. She leaves her impoverished mother to break the news to her daughters and oldest son that their mom had taken off for America.
Mother and son made it into the U.S. and Rosy found work in Chicago printing and bundling catalogues and other mailings. With overtime, she was able to send some money home.
When criminals in Guatemala demanded money or they would kidnap her older son, Rosy returned to her homeland.
Then in 2018, she took both sons, but again left her daughters in the care of her mother.
U.S. immigration rules had changed drastically since her first trip and all three were captured soon after crossing into the U.S.
Rosy’s story offers ammo for both those who deplore the Trump administration’s border policies and those who support them.
She describes mothers so anguished at having their children taken from them that they are hysterical. And their initial detention centre emerges as every bit as grim as news accounts have described them.
However, once the mothers (and fathers) are transferred to longer-term camps, life improves. Women and men are housed in separate buildings, are fed better, play games inside and can go outside for recreation.
Rosy’s sons, meantime, were staying with a caring family in New York that enrolled them in good schools.
Rosy stays for almost three months at the detention centre. Activist mothers in New York raised money for bail and she is flown to New York to reunite with her sons.
In February, Rosy won the prize she hoped for when she crossed the border illegally with her two sons – she was granted asylum in the United States. She’s petitioning now to bring her daughters to join her.
She’s immersed herself in American life – active in church and co-president of the Parent-Teacher Organization at her oldest son’s school.
Rosy benefited from dedicated and expert assistance on each step of her journey from detention to assimilation in the United States.
Absent all that help, it’s hard to imagine such a happy ending for other immigrants who, as did Rosy, arrive at the border with little more than a desperate hope and the clothes they are wearing.
Jeff Rowe, The Associated Press