New study points to rapid decline in food stamps due to Trump’s “public charge” rule. Boston Medical Center’s Children’s HealthWatch observed a 10% drop in enrollments in the first half of 2018.
United States only UN nation to oppose UNHCR resolution on refugees. From US economic ambassador: “We regret that the resolution before us today contains elements that run directly counter to my government’s sovereign interests.”
Big Brother lands in a traffic light near you, as ICE contracts with Houston’s Cowboy Streetlight Concealments to install hidden surveillance cameras in several Texas cities.
ICE posts solicitation for 1,200 “Stack-A-Bunk” plastic bunk beds for its Florence, El Paso, Port Isabel, Miami, and Batavia detention centers. Mother Jones describes the units as “human-sized pieces of plastic that allow jailers to do the bare minimum needed to comply with the law,” characterizing it as akin to “sleeping on Tupperware.”
Former ICE boss, Thomas Homan, rumored to be next DHS Secretary once Nielsen is out, eliciting this response from one former ICE official:
I told a former ICE official about reports that Homan is being considered for DHS chief.
Scott Lloyd, head of the Office of Refugees and Resettlement at HHS (the agency that lost track of 3,000+ immigrant children over the past year), is preparing an anti-abortion book – ‘cuz if anyone knows how to make decisions about other people’s kids, it’s this guy:
DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen likely out before the end of the week. This is looking all the more likely now, with the news that her WH defender, Chief of Staff Kelly, will also be on the chopping block.
Iowa gem, Steve King, calls immigrants “dirt” on tape. <sarcasm>Keepin’ it classy as always, Steve.</sarcasm>
ICE awards $200 million contract to MVM Inc., a private prison company that held separated children overnight in vacant office buildings.
An update on separated children from Jacob Soboroff, who has been covering this story for months:
NEW NUMBERS: Trump administration’s latest count of still-separated migrant kids released last week. Of 2,667 total separated:
➡️ 25 kids still in custody and *not eligible* for reunification.
➡️ 99 kids still in custody with deported parents who have *chosen* not to reunite. pic.twitter.com/tVRkuZw1FU
Remember that caravan – the one that caused a “national emergency” until, for some reason, election day? Well, here’s an update from Newsweek: “LGBT members of a caravan of Central American migrants heading toward the U.S. border appear to have reached the California border after leaving the main group behind over alleged discrimination from other migrants” … read more.
And here’s a bonus video for making it this far – Colbert on Fox’s vanishing caravan coverage:
Other Worthy Reads:
From Sojourners: “An Open Letter to White Evangelicals” (dated December 2018, so it comes to us fromthefuture).
From the New York Times: “The Very Busy Life of an Immigrants’ Rights Priest in 2018.”
From Politico: “Trump preps for border wall fight with Dems”
Lame duck negotiations about border wall funding are unlikely to produce the results Trump wants. Republican Majority leaders in the House and Senate are $20 billion apart on how much funding they believe is realistic and Democrats aren’t likely to go for any of it, even when tied to a DACA fix.
Related: White House schism over immigration complicates Trump’s race to implement new immigration policies before Ryan hands the gavel to Pelosi.
Related: An explanation of Trump’s proposed “asylum ban,” which “raises the risk of summary deportation for thousands of asylum seekers.”
Two nominations moving ahead today as the Senate Homeland Security Committee holds hearings on Ronald D. Vitiello to direct ICE and later votes on Steven Dillingham for Director of the Census.
ICE confirms reporting to Congress a record high average daily population of 44,631 detainees.
In Case You Missed It:
From Cosmopolitan: “All 19 Black Women Running for Judge in a Texas Race Won Tuesday Night”
In the Courts:
ACLU files in federal court to halt the “asylum ban.” (Read the complaint here.)
Greyhound Lines becomes the target of lawsuits for allowing ICE agents to board buses and demand identification from passengers.
An interview with the lead attorney challenging USCIS’s new policy memo against international students.
Former CBP official pleads guilty to pretending to be a lawyer in order defraud immigrants.
On the Ground:
Seven-minute showers, MREs, no combat pay, electricity restrictions, and the approaching holidays are just some of the factors impacting morale among troops deployed to the US-Mexico border.
In the Streets:
Small Michigan caravan sets out from Ann Arbor, heading to El Paso to call attention to Trump’s policies.
Finally, a message from former Ambassador Mike McFaul:
To those media outlets who covered extensively the ” the invading caravan” before the election– sometimes on page one — but now have completely dropped reporting on this alleged national security threat, realize how badly Trump played you & don’t repeat.
Due to legal developments in the Ramos court case related to TPS, explained below:
1) TPS for Haitians will virtually certainly NOT end on July 22, 2019; the government in early March will automatically extend it to approximately January 1, 2020, and quite possibly will do so for another nine months beyond that date, to September, 2020;
2) Haitians with TPS who didn’t re-register for it in 2017 or 2018 out of fear, confusion, or another good reason can and should seek to reregister now; the gov’t has agreed to give such applications “presumptive weight” as being filed late for good cause—meaning they should be granted and then entitled to the TPS extensions described above/below;
As you know, DHS’s November 2017 decision ending Haiti TPS, with an 18-month grace period set to expire on July 22, 2019, is being challenged in four federal district court suits, including the Ramos litigation in San Francisco. On October 3, Judge Chen in Ramos issued a preliminary injunction (“PI”) in the plaintiffs’ favor, suspending as unconstitutional, while the injunction is in effect, implementation of DHS’s TPS termination decisions for Haiti, El Salvador, Sudan, and Nicaragua.
The U.S. government (“USG”) has appealed Judge Chen’s order to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals but has agreed, while the court’s order is in effect, to certain important measures. These measures are reflected in an October 31 Federal Register Notice (“FRN”) (“Continuation of Documentation for Beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status Designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador”) or in a declaration filed in Ramos by a high-ranking USG official.
These important protective measures include the following:
Automatic 9 month extensions, starting in April 2019, unless there is a loss at a court of appeals: “DHS will issue another Federal Register Notice approximately 30 days before April 2, 2019, that will extend TPS for an additional nine months from April 2, 2019, for all affected beneficiaries under the TPS designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador. DHS will continue to issue Federal Register Notices at nine-month intervals so long as the preliminary injunction remains in place and will continue its commitment to [an] orderly transition period, as described above.” (There’s no way the Ninth Circuit will decide by early March, much less the Supreme Court. So the early March additional Federal Register Notice referenced above will issue.)
TPS work and legal status will be automatic for those registered—no need to pay for employment authorization cards or further registration:Under the agreement, for as long as the district court’s order is in place, people with TPS who have re-registered previously – or who re-register late – will not need to register again or apply for a new EAD. They can rely on their existing (to-be-expired) EAD or TPS approval notice, as well as the Federal Register Notice, as valid authorization to work or as proof of legal status in the United States. They do not need to pay any further money to the US government, and should not need to pay for additional legal assistance either.
Re-registration possible—and likely guaranteed—for people who did not re-register during the Trump Administration: Crucially, Haitians with TPS who didn’t reregister in 2017 or 2018 due to fear or other good reason can successfully do so now! If they now reregister for TPS late for good cause, the USG will give their applications “presumptive weight” as being valid! This means that any Haitian TPS recipient who failed to reregister in 2017 or 2018 should be successful in doing so now — late — if they explain that they didn’t reregister on time due to fear, confusion, or other good reason. (This is extremely important for example for the estimated nearly 16,000 Haitians with TPS who let their TPS status lapse early this year by not trying to reregister!)
No new terminations for these countries for now: The USG will not try to write new TPS termination notices for Haiti or the three other nations while the court’s order remains valid.
At least 6 months additional protection even if there is a loss at a higher court: “In the event the preliminary injunction is reversed and that reversal becomes final, DHS will allow for an orderly transition period,” which effectively amounts to about six months from the date of any such hypothetical future final, non-appealable order. This means that – if the district court’s order is overturned on appeal (at the court of appeals or the Supreme Court), the earliest that TPS holders from these countries could lose their legal status is about 6 months after the appeals court’s decision.
Further info will be shared on these legal developments in a webinar and/or otherwise, and prompt congressional action for a longer-term solution remains essential. Meanwhile, please help disseminate the crucially important information explained above!
A brief one today, as Quixote Center is spread around the country…
Sessions disliked by religious leaders across the board.
After all the heated rhetoric over immigration in the 2018 campaigns, Mitch McConnell responds to question about whether Congress will tackle immigration with a resounding “who knows.”
Trump expected to sign executive order further limiting asylum before leaving for Paris on Friday.
The day after this week’s elections, the Department of Defense announces that it has ditched the title “Operation Faithful Patriot” that it had assigned to the movement of troops to the US-Mexico border. Asked for comment, the Pentagon’s spokesperson said, “in order to provide more context to the mission on the Southwest border, we are simply describing the mission in everyday terms, support to Customs and Border Protection.”
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, we hardly knew ye.
Jeff Sessions is out as Trump announces new Acting AG via tweet. Nomination for new AG will come soon, but in the meantime all eyes are on Matthew G. Whitaker, Sessions’s Chief of Staff at DOJ. Stay tuned…
Top Stories:(until 19 minutes ago)
As we now know, Trump’s intentional escalation of anti-immigrant rhetoric yielded mixed results at the polls. On the federal level, the Senate remains red while the House swings blue.
What a Democratic House of Representatives means for Trump’s immigration policies.
Motel 6 pays $7.6 million to avoid class-action lawsuit after regularly providing guest lists to ICE.
Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law files suit against Jeff Session on behalf of Jenny Lisette Flores, et al, in an effort to prevent the administration from ending Flores Agreement protections.
Wheaton College professor urges white evangelicals to resist the anti-immigration fervor that has led them to reject Christian values.
Seattle-King County Immigration Legal Defense Network, launched by the city of Seattle and surrounding King County in response to Trump’s policies, has provided legal representation to 699 in the year since its inception.
From Foreign Affairs: “The Migration Disconnect: Why Central Americans Will Keep on Heading to the United States.”
The Trump administration cancelled a U.S. Border Patrol “crowd control exercise” that was scheduled to take place in El Paso today during the election:
The agency had planned a “mobile field force demonstration” — the latest conspicuous show of force at the border by the federal government ahead of the midterm elections. President Donald Trump recently ordered thousands of U.S. troops to the border, warning of a coming “invasion” by a caravan of Central American migrants who are currently in southern Mexico.
In the build up to the election, Trump has consistently lied about immigration in order to energize his base with nationalistic rhetoric. A senior administrative assistant said, ““It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 percent accurate. This is the play.” Over the last 6 years views on immigration have become a significant predictor of voter preference- especially among white voters. Will Trump’s “play” work?
The real border crisis
Lack of accountability and transparency dominates U.S. immigration policy, especially at the border where thousands of troops have been arriving recently to prepare for…what exactly?
The hotline for the facility was also shut down. Freedom for Immigrants is raising money to defray the costs of detainees making phone calls – they are charged up to $25 for 15 minute phone calls!!
In the Courts
Yesterday, the Department of Justice petitioned the Supreme Court to intervene in several cases over the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Over the last year and half, three different federal courts have ruled against the Trump administration’s efforts to terminate the DACA program.
Motel 6 will pay up to $7.6 million to Latinx guests in order to settle a class-action lawsuit. The lawsuit claimed that Motel 6 violated guest privacy by regularly providing guest lists to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
NBC yanks controversial immigration ad after backlash from viewers. The ad continued to air on MSNBC Monday morning. NBC has issued a statement, saying “After further review, we recognize the insensitive nature of the ad and have decided to cease airing it across our properties as soon as possible.” Fox News has also pulled the ad.
Speaking of Racists:
Michael Cohen confirms to Vanity Fair that Trump is racist.
Another attempt to understand the origins of Stephen Miller, driver of Trump’s immigration policy.
Eyes are on Iowa, as Steve “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies” King faces an uncertain (but is it really that uncertain? – I’m skeptical) election day tomorrow.
NEW: HHS found 14 additional “possible children of” separated parents in a “review of case management records.” […] ACLU tells me “as bad as it is that the administration has lost track of children, it hardly comes as a shock given the lack of any plan to reunite the families.” pic.twitter.com/Q4PpBjqlZw
The northern departments of Haiti were struck by a powerful earthquake on October 6. The quake was centered in Port-de-Paix, but also severely affected Gros Morne, where several schools and the pediatric ward of the hospital were damaged or destroyed, as well as many homes. Thanks to many of you, we were able to deliver $3,000 to Haiti last week to help with the purchase of emergency supplies to assist people in need of shelter.
Over the last few weeks communities near Gros Morne have had a chance to take stock of the damage. There was significant damage done to 500 homes in the immediate area. Some photos here from Perou demonstrate the impact. We will continue to coordinate activities with our partners in Gros Morne to discern next steps.
Other Program News
The program that Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center had another busy quarter. From July through September the program distributed just over 17,000 saplings through satellite nurseries in the nearby communities of Koray, Danti, and Moulen. Accompanying the delivery of saplings in these communities and elsewhere, Center staff held trainings that reached 700 people.
In addition to the reforestation efforts, the Formation Center conducted a variety of workshops: Engaging Environmental Education with 43 teachers in Danti, How to Begin a Community Tree Nursery also in Danti, a workshop on Reforestation and the Creation of Yard Gardens for 209 participants in Chato. In total workshops covered 4 zones and reached 420 people.
Some other activities include
Center staff assisted in the planting of 28.75 karos (just over 90 acres) of weevil resistant sweet potatoes.
The seed bank supported by the Formation Center delivered seeds to 123 families
47 families taking part in the yard garden program were able to begin harvesting, and another 27 new families joined in the program.
The mobile veterinary clinic was able to provide care to many animals including 250 goats and sheep and 5 horses.
A final note, as you will be reading more about in our next newsletter, the Formation Center hosted a second annual conference on the environment in August. Quixote Center staff participated in the conference, alongside students from agronomy programs in the national university system and local farmers and activists. We look forward to attending again next year!
In other news, the Dominican Republic continues to deport Haitians in alarming numbers. Migration control teams composed of inspectors and agents of the Directorate General of Migration, in coordination with the military and National Police, continue to engage in enforcement actions. Recent operations led to arrest of 1,167 Haitians, 877 of whom were removed from the country. As we have reported here, the situation of Haitians in the Dominican Republic continues to be insecure.
On a more positive note, CARICOM has issued new rules on migration that allow people to travel within CARICOM members states without a visa for up to six months. The move was an initial step toward allowing the free movement of people within CARICOM member states, which include: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago
The following was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Honduran migrants following the caravan continue on despite Donald Trump’s threats
LA TÉCNICA, Guatemala — From Central America to Mexico and the U.S., the giant caravan of migrants has turned into a media sensation — and not in a good way. At least that’s the way many of the migrants who have been slipping into Mexico through La Técnica see it.
The tiny village, perched on the Guatemalan side of the Usumacinta River, has been booming with Central American border crossers — some banding together in groups of hundreds or more, large enough to use the C-word. But they’d prefer to stay small and under the radar in order to escape attention from President Donald Trump and the local Mexican migration office.
“The migration (authorities) can focus on the caravan while we get ahead and go around them,” said Honduran farm laborer Manual Alvarado, who crossed at La Técnica last week and started walking northwest with dozens of other migrants. “If they get the people from the caravan, we can go the other way and, God willing, we will have already crossed.”
Alvarado has heard about the political blowback in the U.S. — where Trump is now reportedly considering a ban on Central American asylum-seekers — not to mention the treatment that awaited the migrant caravan in Mexico when it broke through the gates of a formal port of entry near Tapachula in southern Chiapas state. People were pepper-sprayed, passed out in stifling heat and, in at least two cases, lost their lives.
Yet, as with most attempts to stop the inexorable flow of humanity, the migrants adapt — and so do the people who, for a fee, keep them on the move. Some migrants told me they got through Honduras and a large swath of Guatemala in giant caravans with 1,000 or more other migrants. Others say they started their journey alone or in small groups.
Not a single one I encountered between the Guatemalan border and the Mayan tourist hub of Palenque — on a road they call La Ruta Hondureña, or the Honduran Route — had crossed anywhere else.
I first landed in La Técnica on Sunday, Oct. 21, two days after the now famous migrant caravan tore down a chain-link enclosure on the Guatemalan side of the border bridge that connects Tecun Uman, Guatemala with Ciudad Hidalgo in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. The day after, Trump threatened to cut off all aid to Honduras and later promised to send the military to the U.S.-Mexico border.
The threats don’t seem to faze the Hondurans I find. They are fleeing for different reasons — rank poverty, gang threats and a globalized economy that left them behind — but they say they’re so desperate they’re willing to gamble on a dangerous trip north.
“Donald Trump called our president, Juan Orlando Hernández, and said, ‘If you don’t stop this caravan we are going to take away all the aid we give you.’ And what does the aid do for us? Nothing,” Alvarado said. “The politicians take it.”
“There is no work,” he adds. “That’s why we are coming here.”
Although it’s teeming with people, La Técnica is not much to look at. Imagine a long concrete boat ramp lined on each side with storefronts. I counted at least six flophouse hotels ($9.50 per night for two guests, no air conditioning) and five restaurants hawking fried chicken, huevos al gusto and a variety of meat you need a sharp knife to cut.
Buses stuffed with migrants — behind a windshield with “La Técnica” scrawled across it in shoe polish — arrive every hour or two and stop in the center of town. A not insignificant number of women and children mix in with men traveling alone in La Técnica. But the men dominate the foot traffic on the roads beyond, while the more vulnerable often travel in the company of paid guides. (According to Border Patrol stats, three-quarters of migrants apprehended at the southwest border in 2017 were male, and about the same percentage were adults.)
You can generally tell by their apparel, demeanor and the company they keep whether the migrants are paying a smuggler or trying to freelance their way through Mexico. Experts say 60 percent or more do the former, making the majority of people migrating north largely invisible to the international media.
The latter, generally, is not a safe bet thanks to the abuse, shakedowns and price-gouging they’re almost certain to face along the way. Therein lies the attractions of caravans — safety in numbers — though bigger isn’t necessarily better.
The first two groups I saw on Sunday inside the Comedor Jehova restaurant in La Técnica both had guides — coyotes — who wore bejeweled Santa Muerte necklaces and could be seen doling out wads of the cash that fuels the town’s expansion.
“Everything we have is because of the migrants,” the Comedor Jehova owner told my traveling companion, Stephanie Leutert, a University of Texas migration expert who came along to help me understand La Ruta Hondureña.
“This is a one-industry town. This is a town of migration,” Leutert says. “Everyone here seems to be making some money from it.”
She tells me this while sitting a few feet from the swirling Usumacinta. As if on cue, a motorboat carrying a load of migrants glides out behind her toward Mexico.
A mass exit
It only takes five minutes to get across the border. The migrants are dropped off on the banks of Frontera Corozal, Mexico, often right alongside the gringo and Mexican tourists who come for a peek at the world-class Yaxchilan Mayan ruins that are about 45 minutes upriver.
One local boat operator told me the business here traditionally breaks down into a 50-50 split between tourists and migrants, though in recent weeks desperation has been better for business than adventure seeking. To get to Mexico, he charges the migrants 15 Guatemalan quetzales ($2). Tourists pay a little more, about $2.50, for the same ride, and shell out roughly 800 pesos ($45) to get ferried to Yaxchilan in the same motorized skiffs.
The migrants who can afford a smuggler quickly disappear into private cars or, more likely, one of the dozen or so cabs that await each cargo load on the Mexican side of the river for the three-hour ride to Palenque. If self-smuggling migrants take a taxi or colectivo bus, they do so at their peril.
If they’re lucky, they’ll only have to cough up 250 pesos ($14), which is about five times the amount a Mexican pays a colectivo, to get to Palenque. The migrants often get dropped off far short of Palenque, while the drivers will actually take Mexicans all the way into town.
Worse scams than being dropped off out of town await other migrants. We encountered a group of eight young men, some of them teenagers, who said a colectivo driver and his accomplices relieved them, at gunpoint, of the 700 or so pesos they were carrying.
“When we got out the robbers were waiting for us,” said Honduran migrant Edil Fuentes, 25. “They took all our money and we had to walk.”
And walking they are. According to sources familiar with the shelter traffic, more than 5,000 people a month have been moving through the Tenosique corridor that includes Highway 307, where we found Fuentes and his recently robbed compadres. But sources in shelters along these routes say over the last couple of weeks the traffic has doubled.
“In the last 10 days the movement has increased and the people working the shelters are saying the same,” said Francesca Fontanini, the Americas spokeswoman for the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency.
There are only two shelters, if you can call them that, along the 100-mile stretch of highway between Frontera Corozal and Palenque. One, a clapboard hut with concrete floors, sits behind a Catholic church off Highway 307 in the tiny village of Nuevo Francisco Leon, about 40 miles northwest of the river-crossing point. The casa de paso, or temporary shelter, expects to receive more people this October (120 as of Tuesday) than it did in all of 2016 (about 75). The shelter director thinks by the end the year they will have housed up to 2,000 people.
Inside the sweltering hut, I came upon five bedraggled men ranging in age from 17 to 60. The oldest, construction worker Juan Ramon Andino, said they left violence-torn San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the previous Saturday in a caravan of more than 1,000 people after hearing about a planned “mass exit” on the radio. They said another one was forming right behind them.
The caravan Andino and his companions were traveling in eventually broke up into smaller groups and the five men walked and hitchhiked their way into La Técnica. They said they wanted to sidestep the confrontation and media frenzy stirred up by the giant caravan inching toward the U.S. border, publicly angering and perhaps secretly delighting Trump along the way.
“There was a lot of violence and we want to avoid that. People get scared,” Andino says, specifically referencing the tear gas police used on them. His fellow travelers nod their heads and murmur agreement. “But over here it’s going well.”
The men said they were fleeing both crime and poverty back home. Andino told me work has dried up and he’s only been able to eat two meals a day. It’s either rice and tortillas or beans and tortillas, but not all three. One of his companions, a 40-year-old bus driver named José — he only wanted to give his first name — said he’s leaving because he can’t afford to pay la renta, the rent, anymore.
He wasn’t referring to housing. He was talking about the slang word gang members use to describe the regular extortion payments they expect from virtually anyone with a job or business. In Jose’s case it’s the $42 he has to pay weekly to two different gangs, about half his salary.
“It just breaks my heart when my kids ask, ‘Dad, I am hungry, what are we going to eat?’” Jose said.
Using “blind spots”
Migrants have a second, slightly larger shelter in the town of General Emiliano Zapata, about 40 miles from Palenque and a little more than halfway from the Guatemalan border. But it, too, has gotten hammered with increased traffic in recent days — a record 45 on Wednesday, four of them women. Over the week they’ve gotten about 25 minors.
Fernando Aguilar, a volunteer there, said the migrants are telling him they have diverted to this far more remote crossing point to avoid migration authorities and “all the media.”
“They are telling us we don’t think it’s safe for us to travel in the caravan because we are never going to get past Chiapas,” Aguilar said. “They want to use the blind spots where the police is not going to be there — la migra (migration officials).”
In recent days UN officials stopped by to check on their capacity and Aguilar said the director of the Jesuit-affiliated shelter told them they barely had any food left. Aguilar, who’s from Torreón, Coahuila, near the Texas-Mexico border, took me to the warehouse and pointed to the bare shelves inside. I saw a single bottle of cooking oil, one box of tomato puree and, in plastic containers below, a few remaining kilos of rice, beans and masa for making tortillas.
“To be honest, we don’t have the capacity. This is like humble people helping humble people,” he said. “Our storage room is almost empty.”
Migrants setting out on foot from the shelter in General Emiliano Zapata have to walk another couple of days before reaching the appropriately named “Casa Del Caminante,” or “House of the Walker” shelter in a part of Palenque the gringos don’t normally visit.
Famous for its beautifully restored Mayan ruins and sparkling waterfalls, Palenque has more recently emerged as a top destination for Honduran migrants, to the chagrin of many who are used to making a living off tourism.
“They commit a lot of crimes and they bring drugs,” said the owner of a restaurant overlooking the road that leads into Palenque from the Guatemalan border. “They take care of their (bathroom) needs outside.”
It was hard not to think of Trump’s immigrant-bashing presidential announcement in 2015, only Trump was complaining about Mexicans coming to the U.S., not Central Americans entering Mexico.
In front of the restaurant I saw the first feared white Instituto Nacional de Migración vans, parked behind a tree, since I left Guatemala. I was sure I was about to witness some migrant apprehensions, since I’d seen several groups of Hondurans walking toward Palenque and this was the only road in. But the restaurant owner told me the migrants pass through during lunch breaks or at night, when the INM agents are nowhere to be found. Two nights earlier the restaurateur said 500 migrants walked past his restaurant.
Norma Lopez, 21, a breadmaker from Quele Quele, Honduras who wants to migrate to Houston, walked right past the INM agents — singing Christian songs and holding her chin up high, she said. They didn’t ask her for her papers, and simply said “adios” to her as she strolled by.
“I’m not scared. God will protect me,” she said. Her four male companions, who stayed back, later got caught near the same spot trying to slip into Palenque.
At the bulging Palenque shelter, the travelers are given three days and then have to move on. On the first day we visited, the men whose three days had come and gone lined the sidewalk outside, seeking whatever patch of shade they could find. One man, who identified himself as a former MS-13 gang member and had the eyelid tattoos to prove it, was rubbing ointment onto another migrant’s horrifically blistered feet.
The shelter is conveniently located next to the train tracks, which is the draw for most of the migrants we talked to inside and out. They were looking to hop a freighter headed to northern Mexico, ever closer to the American dream they’re all seeking.
That plan didn’t work out so well for 17-year-old Miguel Angel Lopez, a migrant from Chiquimula, Guatemala. Two weeks ago, he tried to jump on the train but he slipped and fell, and the train wheels sliced three toes off his left foot. He was in the hospital for two weeks and has been in the shelter recovering for another two weeks.
Sitting shirtless in a wheelchair and inexplicably smiling from ear to ear, Lopez said he hasn’t told his relatives back home what happened and doesn’t plan to: “I don’t want to worry them,” he tells me.
And why start worrying them now? Once he gets the bandages off and can walk without assistance, he’s just going to try again.
When we came back to the shelter on Friday, dozens of migrants were spilling out into the street in front, and the crowd quickly dissolved into a cacophony of screams and whistles. “Honduras!” one shouted. “Viva Mexico,” screamed another. Soon, more than 50 of them were marching out of town together, down the railroad tracks toward the highway.
“We’re going to leave in a caravan,” said 15-year-old Biron Joselin of Lempira, Honduras, right before the group left. “It’s safer.”
Or maybe not. A day later a third of the mini caravan was back at the shelter, drained of the jubilation and resolve they projected just 24 hours earlier. They said a few hours northwest of Palenque federal police called migration authorities, who managed to arrest roughly two-thirds of the group. About 20 escaped and made their way back to the House of the Walker.
One of them, Honduran Nelson Garcia, 28, summed up how many Central American migrants feel: unsafe at home, “oppressed” in Mexico and unwelcome in the United States.
“Nobody wants us,” he said.
Photojournalist Veronica G. Cardenas contributed to this report.
Disclosure: The University of Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
Editor’s note: The Texas Tribune and TIME have partnered to closely track the family separation crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. This story is not available for republishing by a national news organization until Oct. 31 at 12 p.m. Texas news organizations may run it at any time. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.