An immigration lawyer's viral post reminds us that every statistic is a human story.

When we only hear immigration numbers, it's easy to forget that each statistic is a human life.

In the debates over people wanting to immigrate to the U.S., the people themselves sometimes get lost. That's partly due the dehumanizing rhetoric of anti-immigration forces, and partly due to the impersonal nature of statistics.

But immigration statistics are people. Some are people looking for better opportunities. Some are people desperately seeking safety. Some are people trying to be reunited with their family. As in any group of people, there are a undoubtedly a few bad apples, but the vast majority are honestly doing the best they can with the hand they've been dealt.


Among those numbers are asylum seekers—people who are literally running for their lives, who have knocked on America's door to ask for protection. These are people facing danger, terror, violence, or persecution in their homeland, and sometimes outside it as well.

Immigration lawyer Eric Pavri shared a harrowing story of an asylum-seeking family to show how asylum works—or doesn't.

Eric Pavri, an immigration lawyer and the Director of Family Immigration Services at Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, took to Facebook to share the story of a single mother from Honduras and her teenage daughter who had been impregnated by rapists.

"The daughter had gotten pregnant at age 13 when five members of the MS-13 took turns raping her," Pavri wrote."They came three nights in a row before the mother finally fled to her sister’s house in another town. There, the mother went to ask police to help. But the police, who are themselves on the payroll of the gang, reported their location to the local gang hierarchy, who cross-checked with the MS-13 cell in their hometown and verified that they had tried to escape. In broad daylight, unmasked men with guns broke down the sister’s doors, dragged them into a car, drove them to an auto repair shop, and raped all three."

I am an immigration lawyer (Colorado bar # 44591) at a nonprofit organization, and I wish to say something.Recently,...

Posted by Eric Pavri on Thursday, April 11, 2019

After four months, the mother managed to borrow enough money from a cousin in the U.S. to pay a smuggler to get her and her daughter through Guatemala to Mexico. Two months later, they presented themselves at a U.S. Port of Entry in Laredo, Texas, and told border agents that they were afraid to return to their home country. The daughter was seven months pregnant.

Pavri went on to describe how mother and daughter were detained and held in separate, freezing cold cells for four days, with no knowledge of where the other was. The pregnant teen shared a cell with 10 other women with only a concrete floor to sleep on, one toilet with no privacy curtain, and their drinking water coming out of a faucet on the back of the toilet.

The mother and daughter were eventually given papers to sign and released to await their asylum hearing. The daughter soon gave birth to a baby boy, who has a hole in one of the chambers of his heart.

The baby is now 4 months old, and despite everything the family has been through, Pavri has had to tell them that they likely won't be granted asylum.

These people are not illegal immigrants. They applied for asylum legally.

There is a lot of confusion out there when it comes to asylum. Some may ask why the family didn't apply for asylum at a U.S. embassy in their home country, but that's not how asylum works. In order to request asylum, you have to be on U.S. soil or at an official Port of Entry. This family went through the proper legal channel.

Some may ask why they didn't seek asylum in Guatemala or Mexico—why come to the U.S.? In a comment on his post, Pavri pointed out that the U.S. has an obligation to respond humanely to asylum requests at our border no matter where the asylum seekers come from. In addition, this mother and daughter has family in the U.S., and many asylum-seeking women have a credible fear of falling prey to sex trafficking cartels in Central America and Mexico.

But Pavri says this family will likely be denied asylum anyway. Their suffering is considered a "private harm," since their rapists weren't motivated by these women's race, religion, national origin, or political opinion.

"In the perverse world of asylum law," wrote Pavri, "what matters is not so much THAT you will be harmed, but WHO will harm you and WHY they will harm you. In a way, we are telling these two women that even here in the United States, the country that they believe will protect them, those men who hurt them are more important. Let me rephrase that. I had to tell them that, to their faces, today. I had to tell them in so many words that because their rapists didn’t rape them for the right reasons, they will likely be sent back to be hurt again."

Pavri explained that being strong and welcoming is what has always made America exceptional.

In a comment on the post, Pavri wrote, "I’ve never thought of the U.S. as being a do-the-minimum country. I was raised by my parents (who immigrated here from Asia and Europe in the 1960s) to believe that we are the greatest nation on earth. A grand experiment. A nation that was strong enough to defeat fascism and totalitarianism during the darkest times of the past century. That’s the great dream that both of my parents wanted to be part of."

"We have a responsibility to be strong, welcoming, and great because that is what makes the United States exceptional," he continued. "I for one am not willing to settle for the minimum when it comes to my country. I don’t want us to just be like any other country around the world. This is the United States. A place that I love, for all its flaws. A place that slowly, painfully, haltingly has kept moving toward living up to the ideals spelled out in our founding documents. The greatest nation on Earth, ever. The leader of the world, by example. I for one am not willing to give that up, to see my country throw in the towel and resign itself to mediocrity."

Pavri asked a pointed question: "Are we now so afraid and little that we don’t want to lead the world anymore? Really, the United States is no longer strong enough to protect this mother and daughter?"

"My dad raised me so that if I saw a kid being picked on on the other side of the playground, I’d go over and help that kid," Pavri concluded. "He didn’t raise me to say, 'Well, there are other people standing closer, so it’s not my responsibility.'"

We may not be able to help everyone, but we do need to remember that these numbers are human beings.

There is no doubt that immigration needs reform. There is no doubt that these issues are complex. But there is also no doubt that fearmongering and prejudice are hampering our humanity.

We don't need to treat people seeking asylum through legal channels like criminals. We don't need to waste resources cranking up the air conditioning and leaving the lights on full blast all night long in detention facilities, just to torture people who are asking for help. We don't need to take people's children away from them to deter others from asking for help. We don't need to make the humanitarian crisis at the border worse with cruel and inhumane policies.

We can treat people humanely while we figure out if and how we can help them. That's the bare minimum a great country should strive for, isn't it?

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

4-year-old New Zealand boy and police share toys.

Sometimes the adorableness of small children is almost too much to take.

According to the New Zealand Police, a 4-year-old called the country's emergency number to report that he had some toys for them—and that's only the first cute thing to happen in this story.

After calling 111 (the New Zealand equivalent to 911), the preschooler told the "police lady" who answered the call that he had some toys for her. "Come over and see them!" he said to her.

The dispatcher asked where he was, and then the boy's father picked up. He explained that the kids' mother was sick and the boy had made the call while he was attending to the other child. After confirming that there was no emergency—all in a remarkably calm exchange—the call was ended. The whole exchange was so sweet and innocent.

But then it went to another level of wholesome. The dispatcher put out a call to the police units asking if anyone was available to go look at the 4-year-old's toys. And an officer responded in the affirmative as if this were a totally normal occurrence.

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