"I was stuck by the choice mothers face when they leave their children. How do they make such an impossible decision? Among Latinos, where family is all-important, where for women motherhood is valued far above all else, why are droves of mothers leaving their children? What would I do if I were in their shoes?"
"Then I began to retrace his steps, doing the journey exactly as he had done it a few weeks before. I wanted to see and experience things as he had with the hope of describing them more fully."
"Although I often felt exhausted and miserable, I knew I was experiencing only an iota of what migrant children go through...The journey gave me a glimmer of how hard this is for them."
"[Enrique] will remember only one thing that she says to him: 'Don't forget to go to church this afternoon'."
"In their absence, these mothers become larger than life. Although in the United States the women struggle to pay rent and eat, in the imaginations of their children back home they become deliverance itself, the answer to every problem. Finding them becomes the quest for the Holy Grail."
"This had been his first home, the small stucco house where he and Lourdes lived until Lourdes stepped off the front porch and left. His second home was the wooden shack where he and his father lived with his father's mother, until his father found a new wife and left. His third home was the comfortable house where he lived with his uncle Marco."
"When Enrique's mother left, he was a child. Six months ago, the first time he set out to find her, he was still a callow kid. Now he is a veteran of a perilous pilgrimage by children, many of whom come looking for their mothers and travel any way they can."
"In spite of everything, Enrique has failed again--he will not reach the United States this time, either. He tells himself over and over that he'll just have to try again."
"Nearly one in six migrant girls detained by authorities in Texas says she has been sexually assaulted during her journey, according to a 1997 University of Houston study."
"At the rate of nearly one every other day, the Red Cross estimates, U.S.-bound Central American migrants who ride freight trains lose arms, legs, hands, or feet."
"'No one tells me something can’t be done. Everything can be cured. Nothing is impossible.'"
"He was five years old when his mother left him. Now he is almost another person. In the window glass, he sees a battered young man, scrawny and disfigured. It angers him, and it steels his determination to push northward."
"It's wrong for our government to send people back to Central America. If we don't want to be stopped from going into the United States, how can we stop Central Americans in our country?"
"'We are human. We should treat people in a humane way. It's okay to send people back. But they shouldn't shoot them, beat them this way.'"
"Somewhere over there lives his mother. She has become a mystery, too. He was so young when she left that he can barely remember what she looks like: curly hair, eyes like chocolate. Her voice is a distant sound on the phone."
"Outside the church after dinner, many migrants engage in a crude kind of street therapy: Who has endured the worst riding the trains?"
"His mother is a stranger...But he can feel her love."
"Children like Enrique dream of finding their mothers and living happily ever after. For weeks, perhaps months, these children and their mothers cling to romanticized notions of how they should feel toward each other. Then reality intrudes."
"'It's like a miracle,' [Lourdes] says. It is as if all the hurt he felt inside had to come out and now he is ready to move on."
"Maria Isabel does not say goodbye to her daughter. She does not hug her. She gets out of the car and walks briskly into the bus terminal. She does not look back. She never tells her she is going to the United States."
"'What would it take to keep people from leaving? There would have to be jobs. Jobs that pay okay. That's all.'"