July 15, 2014

Jose Díaz-Balart's new show on MSNBC debuted Monday, and began with a reminder that it's really easy for some to be heartless when they're not confronted with reality. With that in mind, he served up a hefty dose of it in this interview with Honduran immigrant Maria, who tells her story of why she chose to leave her country and travel to our border with the assistance of a coyote.


Maria, a 17-year-old, paid a coyote to bring her into the United States after her brother was killed by a gang and she was threatened with death if she did not join it. Fighting tears, she described to Díaz-Balart the process of crossing the border as “horrible” and explained that she decided to enter the country “just to save my own life so that I could live my dreams, so I could help my family.” Deportation “would be a tragedy, it would be a certain death for me,” she added. “Everything that’s happened to me in my life, I would just know that that would be the last day.”

She told her story in Spanish, with Díaz-Balart translating for her.

Maria’s story is rarely covered by English-speaking media, but immigrants’ personal narratives are regularly featured on Spanish speaking television.

“It’s a voice I hear repeated over and over,” Díaz-Balart, a 30-year news veteran who also hosts two shows on the Spanish-language channel Telemundo, said during a phone interview with ThinkProgress.

“It’s not a silent voice, it’s just not one you hear in English.”

MSNBC was unable to verify Maria’s story, but the general details echo the accounts of other immigrants — children fleeing gangs after being forced to sell drugs, experiencing rape or death threats for failing to comply with the sexual wishes of gang members.

MSNBC connected with Maria through an organization in South Florida that works with undocumented immigrants. “I asked her if she would be willing to come on, the story she tells is just gut wrenching,” Díaz-Balart said, adding that he expects to incorporate more immigrant voices in his MSNBC program. “On Telemundo, we cover it more consistently, and daily, but I don’t see why it’s that much more different,” he explained. “MSNBC and all of the folks of the show were nothing but supportive of this, it’s America reflected.”

Right-wingers are able to get their messages into the mainstream by speaking in the abstract and dehumanizing those they're targeting. Hence the derogatory references to "illegals" and "welfare queens."

If more Americans were able to hear stories like this, we would be a more compassionate and gentle society.


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