Former illegal immigrant turned business owner defends migrant children

Posted at 11:27 PM, Jul 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-21 00:01:46-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- As the national immigration debate continues, a local Hispanic business owner says that many people don’t realize the circumstances of families who feel forced to send their kids north.

Hundreds of minors are being kept in holding centers in the United States after arriving without their parents over the past several months.

"I think they are desperate," Flor Torres, the owner of La Huasteca in Grand Rapids, says. "They are probably finding out that they can't even provide them a meal for their children at home. They are probably not able to send them to school."

Torres said that when she sees video of the children, her heart breaks knowing she was just like them.

Torres was born in Juarez, Mexico. Today, she is a mother of two, an American citizen, and a business owner.

When she came to the U.S., she didn't know she would never return to Mexico. "We thought we were just going to visit my aunt and come back, so that was kind of a shocker. We had to leave behind friends from school. Everything that you know, your culture, your food, and it's hard.

Torres said after arriving to the United States illegally, her parents took steps to become documented. Going to school in Michigan without understanding English was a huge hurdle to overcome.

Torres has been following the developments of hundreds of Hispanic children being housed by the federal government, while the U.S. attempts to come up with a solution after an influx of unaccompanied minors showing up in border cities.

People often assume illegal immigrants only take from society, Torres says. But with the right resources, the children at the center of the immigration debate can became doctors, lawyers and, like her, business owners.