Maureen Maloney is a mother and nurse practitioner from Milford. She was an early and steadfast supporter of a wall along the Southern U.S.-Mexico border, and of one-time candidate Donald Trump. She stood beside him at a campaign rally that helped put his signature issue, immigration, on the map. And she's still at it. She and other supporters were on Capitol Hill just last week getting behind Trump's demand for the full $5.7 billion for his border wall. Maureen Maloney spoke with WGBH All Things Considered anchor Barbara Howard. This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Barbara Howard: So just about 10 weeks before Trump was elected president, back in 2016, you appeared along with your husband with Trump at a rally. You said, "My name is Maureen Maloney, and our son Matthew Denice was 23 years old when he was dragged a quarter of a mile to his death by an illegal alien, while horrified witnesses were banging on a truck trying to stop him." Your son was 23 years old. I'm so sorry. The man behind the wheel that evening, Nicolas Guaman, was originally from Ecuador. He was undocumented, living in the U.S. for nine years.
Maureen Maloney: Yes.
Howard: He was unlicensed. He wasn't supposed to be driving. Ultimately he was convicted. Is that right?
Maloney: He was ultimately convicted of OUI manslaughter.
Howard: Operating under the influence.
Howard: And he's serving time in prison now?
Maloney: He was sentenced to 12 years in prison. In Massachusetts, you can have your sentence reduced by 30 percent for good behavior, so he most likely will be getting released sometime this summer.
Howard: So this whole episode thrust you into the immigration debate, whether you were ready or not. You were familiar with undocumented immigrants, but this really cast the issue in sharp relief for you?
Maloney: It did. I did not realize the extent of the immigration issue. I started speaking out and I started connecting with other families around the country. And then, in 2016, President Trump invited several of us to his rally in Arizona, when he was announcing his immigration reform.
Howard: How has it been in this unfortunate community that you're now a part of? Are you unified?
Maloney: On smaller issues, there might be some differences of opinions, but we're all unified on securing the southern border.
Howard: It's just a matter of how to do it that you're not always in agreement on?
Howard: How did that go last week? I understand you went to D.C. as a group?
Maloney: It went very well. We had 29 families that have lost a loved one to an illegal alien. We went to see Nancy Pelosi, but she was unwilling to meet with us. We did go to Sen. Schumer's office. He was not available, but he did have one of his aides speak with us for about an hour and a half.
Howard: Did you feel satisfied with that meeting?
Howard: Anybody else you met with?
Maloney: On Friday morning we met with President Trump.
Howard: How was that?
Maloney: That was a good meeting. President Trump has always made himself available to listen to our views on the issues and our concerns.
Howard: Losing a child is deeply, deeply personal. Do you ever worry about your grief becoming politicized or exploited?
Maloney: You know, I'm doing this because I don't want my son's death to be in vain, and I'm trying to prevent others from being killed the way my son was killed.
Howard: You can understand, if you're an immigrant here, whether you're with documents or not, the tenor of the country has changed such that a lot of people are really scared. Has there been too much painting with a broad brush?
Maloney: No. Not all undocumented immigrants are like that, and I'm not saying they're all criminals, but the one thing they do have in common is, if you're in the country illegally, you have already broken a law to be here.
Howard: Statistically, crime is no higher in immigrant communities than in U.S.-born communities.
Maloney: It really doesn't matter if they're committing more crimes, the same, or less crimes. They shouldn't be committing any crimes because they shouldn't be here. And if it were your loved one, even one crime would be too much. My son was one crime too many.
Howard: You must be angry.
Maloney: I think I’m beyond the anger. I'm still grateful for what I do have in my life. I still have my son. I know other parents said it was their only child that was killed. I think the only way you can survive any tragedy in life is to focus on what you have to be grateful for. Otherwise you become very bitter.
Howard: Could you imagine yourself sitting down with, for example, a DACA recipient, and having a conversation about these issues?
Howard: What would you like to say?
Maloney: I still stand firm in that I think people should be coming to the country legally. The DACA recipients, I realize many of them were brought here as very small children and had no say in the matter. I mean, your parent picks you up and you have to go with them.
Howard: You're a little more sympathetic to them?
Howard: All right. Well thanks so much.
Maloney: Thank you.
Howard: That's Maureen Maloney of Milford. Her son Matthew was riding a motorcycle when he was killed by an undocumented immigrant driver eight years ago. Since then, she's been advocating for President Trump and the building of a border wall along the southern border. President Trump did declare a state of emergency Friday to divert funds to build that wall, a move that is facing court challenges. This is WGBH’s All Things Considered.