This holiday season — a time so often associated with bringing family My thoughts keep turning to the families in the migrant caravans making their way to the U.S. southern border.

I spent four days in Mexico last month with my organization, the American Friends Service Committee, to assess the needs of participants in the caravan and expand human rights monitoring.

As I crept into my children’s bedrooms to give them a kiss when I got back, resisting the urge to wake them up for cuddling and conversation, I thought about what would make me pick up with them and flee, with little notice and even less information about what would lie ahead.

Over and over again, our delegation heard of the need for more strollers for the migrant caravan. Could I even imagine dropping everything to walk 3,000 difficult miles with my children in my arms — without even a stroller?

Watching coverage of the U.S. firing tear gas at migrants at the border and hearing the harrowing reports from my colleague who witnessed that violent repression, I thought again about the mothers I’d met in Mexico. What could push me to take the risk of facing this violence to protect my children?

I met so many people in Mexico who joined the caravan because it was their only way out.

I think about “Maria” (not her real name), a young mother of four I met. Maria is from El Salvador, where violence and a complete lack of opportunities put her family at risk. One of her children had already been killed by violence.

When word spread of the caravan, Maria made a spontaneous choice to join. She told me she was in search of opportunity for her family and the hope of seeing her children grow up in a place without danger.

Like the Bible story of Mary and Joseph, who fled to Egypt when King Herod’s government threatened their newborn child, Maria and so many other parents have picked up everything and undertaken a harrowing journey to save their children’s lives.

Caravan participants I met expressed so much faith — both in God and the idea that United States is a place that embraces those fleeing violence and poverty. What else can they do in the face of such an existential threat but hope and pray for a chance for their families ? In the season when many celebrate the birth of a child whose family had to flee to another country to keep him alive, what does our shared humanity demand from parents making the same difficult choice today?

In the face of our government’s cruelty, I feel called to stand up for the people of the migrant caravan. Kerri Kennedy oversees humanitarian and peacebuilding work in 17 countries for the American Friends Service Committee.

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