Under different circumstances, Abner Mares could have grown up inside a chain link cage, the victim of a crime he did not commit.
Mares was 7, and had no choice when he was taken from his native Mexico with his brother and sister by his mother, Belen — illegally — into the United States. Mares became an Olympic boxer, a professional world champion and a role model to many, and is on track to become an American citizen in 2019.
But if the policy of the U.S. was the same in 1993 as it is today, as President Trump has ordered the separation of children from their parents at the border, the world may never have heard of Mares.
Now 32 and one of the most exciting fighters in the sport, Mares has taken up what figures to be the fight of his life. He’s wading into the immigration controversy that has caused worldwide debate.
Mares, who lost a unanimous decision to Leo Santa Cruz in an electrifying fight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on June 9, issued a statement condemning the Trump Administration’s policy of separating children from their parents.
His words are chilling to read, because he has been on both sides of the issue. He entered the country illegally, though he had no choice because he was too young to know any better and was brought by his mother.
He would eventually comply with the laws and is now not only a legal U.S. resident and world-class boxer on track to citizenship, but he is a successful business owner as well.
His personal success story, and his human compassion, compelled him to speak out on the policy.
“I came to the United States from Mexico at age 7,” Mares wrote. “I came here without the proper documents and didn’t speak English. Like so many women before her, my mother brought my brother, sister and myself here for a better life. Life wasn’t easy, and we watched her work three jobs. We all did what we could. I would dumpster dive for bottles and cans to help pay for food. But it didn’t matter, because we were working towards our dreams, our American dreams.
“Now, as an American resident who will become an American citizen in 2019, as a father, a son and a brother, it makes my heart break to see and hear of the forced separation of parents from their children at the borders. We all have dreams, we all have family, regardless of borders. What is happening at the borders of this country, of MY country, is simply inhuman. I’m an example of the American and Mexican dreams combined, the North American dream. I have a successful career in boxing, and a successful business in the United States and Mexico that employs both American and Mexican citizens. I am lucky enough to have a loving family that is happy, healthy and together.”
It would have been easiest for Mares to remain silent, to complete his citizenship requirements and continue to train for his fights. This is a highly charged political issue, and those who side with the president will be outspoken against Mares.
He said he couldn’t ignore what is happening because the America that he knows is about welcoming people and caring for the downtrodden.
“As a father and human being I can’t stay silent, and I cannot condone what is going on,” Mares wrote. “Putting children of any age in a prison camp is not what we as caring humans do. The founders of this country said that we are all ‘one people, under God, indivisible’ and that there is indeed, justice for all. The symbol of our country, the Statue of Liberty herself, says to bring us your poor, your huddled masses … are we to remove that saying, ignore that line, that sentiment?
“This isn’t unity. This isn’t diversity. This is division. This is going against what God asks of us as humans. The trauma these children and adults face will haunt them for their lifetime. I join the world and condemn the unjust imprisonment of children and ask all my fans, followers and supporters to call their elected officials — congressmen and congresswomen, senators, House representatives, councilmen, mayors and governors. Your voice must be heard.”
He sounded a call to action, asking his fans to become politically engaged to protest the policy and to demand that people seeking asylum in the U.S. or crossing the border not be separated from their minor children.
“It’s simple,” Mares wrote. “Go to Facebook.com/townhall and all your representatives and their phone numbers appear. Or go to https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative/ to find your representative. Email them, call them, and tell them that all it takes is one sentence of legislation, one phone call from the president to stop this: ‘All families seeking asylum or crossing the border of the United States, either documented or not, shall not be separated from their minor children.’
“It is not illegal to seek asylum at the border of any country. These people are not criminals. They are seeking asylum, a better life. It is not their fault the immigration system of the United States is broken and Congress has been unable to agree on a humane solution. They are innocent. They are children. We can stop this. It takes one sentence to put an end to this.”
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