Abject poverty, political instability, torture, and other abuses push thousands across our border. There is not a deterrent imaginable that equals the conditions that force their migration.
Our best selves tell us that 'there but for the grace of God... ' and that, in the end, there is no distance, really, between us and them. It is just us. Our best and noble hope is to imitate the God we believe in. The God who has abundant room in God's grief and heart for us all.
Gang members aren't frightened into acceptable behavior by increased penalties, enhanced punishments, and the promise of new detention facilities.
My job isn't to fix or rescue or to save. It's to accompany, see people, listen to them.
Children find themselves adrift not because the informational signposts are illegible, but because there is no one around to guide and accompany them.
I work with gang members, and I feel a kind of affinity and gift, even. But who would've thunk it, you know? I mean, I didn't anticipate it.
You prevent kids from joining gangs by offering after-school programs, sports, mentoring, and positive engagement with adults. You intervene with gang members by offering alternatives and employment to help redirect their lives. You deal with areas of high gang crime activity with real community policing. We know what works.
The idea that any law enforcement agency or person would ever know these gang members better than Homeboy Industries is impossible.
Like the suffering child, gang members act out of their despair, and their actions are all the more alarming now for our not having heeded their cry long ago. The shortsighted neglect that keeps us locked up in our outrage has also kept us from viable solutions.
Metro police can't infuse hope into those for whom hope is foreign. The algorithm does not exist that can heal the traumatized. Data-driven predictions won't result in the delivery of mental health services.
I spent the summers of 1984 and 1985 as an associate pastor at Dolores Mission Church, the poorest parish in the Los Angeles archdiocese. In 1986, I became pastor of the church.
I'm the priest who has been mistaken for an ATM machine.
You stand with the least likely to succeed until success is succeeded by something more valuable: kinship. You stand with the belligerent, the surly and the badly behaved until bad behavior is recognized for the language it is: the vocabulary of the deeply wounded and of those whose burdens are more than they can bear.
Homeboy Bakery is an alternative to kids who have found themselves, regrettably, in gangs and want to redirect their lives.
In my barrio, jobs work and money saves lives. When I have had the funds to place a gang member on a job site and pay his salary, I've seen him stop banging. When, on the rarest of occasions, an employer has offered a job to one of these youth, I've witnessed kids suddenly have a reason to get up in the morning.
People have to see that there is a high degree of complexity about belonging to a gang. It's a symptom, not a problem.
The truth is this: Brutalized, victimized children invariably will brutalize and victimize when they grow up. Is our only response to this the certain promise that we will penalize them when they do? Or will we commit to keeping our children safe from brutality and victimization?
For over twenty years, Homeboy Industries has chosen to stand with those on the margins and those whose burdens are more than they can bear; it stands with the poor and the powerless, with the easily-despised and the readily-left out.
I founded Homeboy Industries in 1988 after I buried my first young person killed in our streets because of gang violence.
We need not wait for further, well-placed home video cameras to see that low-intensity warfare is being waged against low-income minorities. We need only listen to the voices of the poor; they can testify that they are dehumanized, disparaged, and despised by the police.