‘I was one of them.’ Norma Duque’s emotional interview on the border’s immigration crisis
By LA Stories Staff Los Angeles
PUBLISHED 5:00 AM PT May. 17, 2021
When she was just 10 years old and living in Guatemala, Norma Duque experienced trauma that most will never see in a lifetime.
Duque’s father — an outspoken political figure fighting for the people of Guatemala — was brutally murdered, along with her brother and uncles. Five years later, at just 15 years of age, Duque came to the U.S. without a green card in search of a safer and better life. After being homeless and escaping more unthinkable situations, she was adopted — and her life changed forever.
Today, as president and CEO of Nuevo Amanecer Latino Children’s Services, Duque helps unaccompanied children coming across the border — just as she did as a child.
In the latest episode of “LA Stories Unfiltered,” she opens up about her harrowing experience.
“I was one of them, at a different time, different circumstances, but one of them,” she said.
Since its establishment in 1994, NALCS has expanded to multiple locations across the Southland. The agency provides a full range of educational and family-based treatment services, such as foster care, adoptions and services for unaccompanied children. Since 2014, the nonprofit has helped at least 900 children reunite with their families living in the U.S.
“I want to see their faces, and I want to see their pain because their pain is what motivates me,” she said. “And the day I stop crying for the pain of these kids, that’s the day I’m going to leave Nuevo Amanecer.”
With the record-breaking numbers of migrants crossing the border, Duque grows more and more concerned for the minors’ well-being.
She worries that the temporary shelters created to detain the unaccompanied children lack the facilities needed to handle the influx.
To Duque, it’s important to address the root causes of why migrants cross the border, such as corrupt governments, lack of jobs and gang violence.
“Securing the border is not enough,” she said. “They need to build opportunities for people, so they don’t come here.”
Duque added that she’s hopeful our country can come together to help and heal the border crisis.
“All of us are equally responsible,” she said. “If we want to see change, we have to be a part of it.”