[Congressional Record Volume 165, Number 71 (Wednesday, May 1, 2019)]
[Pages H3347-H3348]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                             SOLITO, SOLITA

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from 
California (Ms. Speier) for 5 minutes.
  Ms. SPEIER. Mr. Speaker, innocent children shouldn't pay the price 
for the President's cruel immigration agenda. Steamrolling the facts 
and the law, he has implemented policy after failed policy, playing 
catch and release with his own cabinet.
  As the President ratchets up his threats to close the border and cut 
aid to Central America, thousands of migrants are fleeing their home 
countries to seek refuge in the United States.
  I recently met with the editors of the book ``Solito, Solita''--
Alone, Alone--a collection of oral histories that tells the stories of 
young refugees in their own words. I rise today to read excerpts from 
one of them, Gabriel Mendez.
  His story begins in a poor, dangerous neighborhood in the capital of 
Honduras. He says:

       When I was just a boy of 7, my cousins raped me for a long 
     time--for a year. They raped me at the river, where they 
     collected water--and in my own home.
       . . . Some of my fellow students who belonged to the maras 
     took weapons to school. I told the mareros that I didn't want 
     to bring weapons to school. I was afraid of them. They also 
     wanted me to bring drugs into school. I didn't want to do it, 
     so I left that school. . . . Now the maras were looking for 
     me--to kill me. They were asking my neighbors if they knew 

  When Gabriel was 14, he convinced his mother, who was living in San 
Francisco, to pay a coyote $6,000 to bring him to the United States. 
Gabriel recounted the horrors he encountered along the way.

       . . . they kept us locked in a house with eight other 
     people for a week. We kept moving. Many days passed without 
     eating or drinking water.
       We were taken to the river, where there was a raft. We 
     crossed the river into the United States and moved to a safe 
     house. We spent 4 nights in the desert, including the night 
     of my 15th birthday.
       . . . We came upon another group of people who'd been 
     traveling 2 days ahead of us. A young man, under 18, had 
     perished from exposure and lack of water and food. I got 
     stuck in some barbed wire in the desert. The coyote kicked 
     me, ripping my flesh to set me free.
       . . . We got to Los Angeles on December 17, 2013. If we 
     didn't pay more money, they threatened to cut off our heads 
     and all kinds of horrible things. My mom said she'd give them 
     another $50, and they piled another 8 people in a van and 
     brought us to San Francisco.

  In San Francisco, Gabriel feared for years he would be sent back to 
Honduras. With the support of his mother and an attorney, he was 
eventually granted asylum.
  Now he is a student at the University of California at Berkeley, with 
dreams of becoming a lawyer himself.

[[Page H3348]]

  In an essay, he wrote:

       My experience of childhood sexual and domestic abuse has 
     shaped my dreams to become a lawyer, to defend victims and 
     fight for children's rights around the world. My immigration 
     lawyer was a role model for me because she listened to my 
     experiences. I want to continue studying to help children 
     feel protected by the law . . .

  If we want to understand the why behind mass migration, we need to 
listen and learn from these stories.
  As Members of Congress, it is our job to uplift these voices and use 
them to fix a broken immigration system. We must insist on due process 
for asylum seekers; we must insist on humane treatment of our families; 
and we must insist on aid to Central America to stem the drivers of 
  Together, we can prevent more children from risking their lives.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Members are reminded to refrain from 
engaging in personalities toward the President.