Fleeing Honduras, family stakes its
future on asylum in the U.S.
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[February 15, 2019]
By Loren Elliott
TEXICO, N.M. (Reuters) - Seventeen-year old
Carolina is putting on some snazzy shoes and make-up, talking excitedly
to her friends on her phone, getting ready to go out for a party.
The mobile home that she shares with her mother and two younger siblings
in Texico, New Mexico, is hardly luxurious. But this town provides her
with something that she did not have in her former home in San Pedro
Sula, Honduras - safety.
Here, at least, she can go out.
"There are many gang members (in San Pedro Sula) and they are basically
in charge, the streets are really dangerous," her mother, Orfa, said in
an interview earlier this month. "I almost never went out, I stayed at
home with the children."
Reuters is withholding the surnames of the family to protect their
identity because of their uncertain status and fear of Honduran gangs.
Their troubles in Honduras deepened after Orfa separated from the
children's father, leaving her with no source of income and little
chance of finding work.
Then Carolina's school friend was raped by gang members, and her
daughter was told that "she was next," Orfa said.
Orfa set out with her three children in early 2018 to make the
approximately 2,700-mile (4,300-km) journey through Mexico to the United
States. They joined one of the 'caravans' of thousands of Central
American migrants that have made the trip over the past year in hopes of
securing asylum in the United States.
An incensed U.S. President Donald Trump has called the migrants "a
tremendous onslaught," sent troops to the border, and pushed for tougher
controls and a far more extensive border wall.
After a grueling six-week journey of walking, riding on top of trains,
and hitching lifts, in which the family relied largely on the kindness
of strangers to eat, they wound up at a shelter in Tijuana. The Mexican
border city has become the temporary home for hundreds of caravan
migrants, who wait for their turn, sometimes for months, to formally
request asylum in the United States.
Accompanied by minors, Orfa's turn to apply came after a week. The
family was transferred to a detention center in Texas, and then released
from custody to await future court appearances, suggesting authorities
believed the family had demonstrated what the U.S. government calls
"credible fear" of returning home. Trump has derided this practice,
referring to it as "catch and release."
[to top of second column]
Carolina (R) and younger sister Rachel, daughters of Orfa, a migrant
from Honduras, wait for friend Jefferson to fill his gas tank during
an outing in Texico, New Mexico, U.S., December 23, 2018.
In San Antonio's bus terminal, the family and other caravan members
said emotional goodbyes as they took buses to different parts of the
Gazing out of a Greyhound bus window, Orfa's children saw the blue
skies and shrubland of New Mexico for the first time. They have been
in Texico since May, living on trailer sites where their cousins and
extended family were already.
They are adjusting to life in the United States - shopping at
Walmart, learning to drive, adopting a dog. Carolina has become good
friends with her Honduran neighbors, Jefferson and Sulmy.
But the children are unable to go to school without proof of
identity, Orfa said. Finding food for them when she was not allowed
to work was challenging.
And hanging over their heads is the decision yet to come on whether
they can stay or must return to Honduras. Most asylum claims from
Central Americans are ultimately rejected.
"I want to give the children what I can, have them go to school,"
said Orfa. "They are the important ones. It is not easy here, but
maybe the children can study and achieve something."
(hoto essay at: https://reut.rs/2V1g0D0)
(Reporting by Loren Elliott, Writing by Rosalba O'Brien, Editing by
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