Abner Mares’ personal journey from Mexico to the United States shaped the fighting spirit inside him, setting him on a mission to help his family survive and achieve success in its new country.
The former multidivision world boxing champion is struck by the Trump administration’s crackdown in recent weeks at the U.S.-Mexico border that has resulted in the separation of children from their parents.
After originally coming to the U.S. illegally, Mares would often travel to Mexico as a teen to visit relatives and then come back across the border without incident, relying only on his school I.D. card for clearance. His motivations in returning to Hawaiian Gardens were never sinister. He was just going home to his family — and to develop himself into a champion who would ultimately draw strong crowds to StubHub Center and Staples Center, as he did in his tightly contested June 9 featherweight-title loss to Leo Santa Cruz, a first-generation Mexican American raised in Lincoln Heights.
In a statement released Wednesday, Mares, who now lives legally in the U.S. and is on track to become a citizen, urged for a better way:
“I came to the United States from Mexico at age seven. 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 toward 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 inhumane.
“As a father and human being, I can’t stay silent, and I cannot condone what is going on … 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.
“It’s simple. 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.
“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. … Demand a vote to end family separations today.”