STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Immigrants describe fear, violence

CNN's Nick Valencia is on the US-Mexico border and spoke to an apprehended mother about what drove her to cross the border with her son.

Posted: Jun 29, 2018 11:08 AM
Updated: Jun 29, 2018 11:35 AM

The woman says she had a "normal' life in Honduras' capitol -- a home, a job and a son she'd do anything to protect.

The threat of gangs was always present, she said: in the past year, three boys from her neighborhood were killed for refusing to join MS-13. Then the violence came into her home and threatened to take her son, she said, leaving her no choice but to flee to the United States.

Less than a week later, they were captured on the banks of the Rio Grande by an agent with US Customs and Border Protection.

CNN was with a CBP agent when he encountered the mother and her son with four other migrants -- a man and his three-year-old son and two unaccompanied minors. Per CBP's order, CNN is not naming the migrants.

They are among many families coming across the border each day, seemingly unaware of the political furor over their fate as they leave their homes fearing for their lives. Their clean clothes and relatively fresh appearance suggest they intended to cross legally and may not have been trying to evade capture, agent Robert Rodriguez said.

But their future remains unclear amid the fluid conditions created by the administration's zero tolerance approach to prosecuting illegal border entry. While the Justice Department will continue to prosecute adults in federal court who cross the border illegally, President Donald Trump's executive order asks that families be housed together "where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources."

The CBP agent followed a raft upstream carrying the group to a landing. He encountered them in a thicket of tall grass and trees, and told them he would bring them to a central processing center in McAllen, Texas. After he brought them to a vehicle, he gave them water and asked several questions to ensure they were OK.

Before they began the next part of their journey, they shared some details of the life-or-death choices that brought them to this point.

'I would never let my son be captured'

Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, originated decades ago among Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles, using violent crime to intimidate rival gangs, law enforcement and the public. The gang has expanded its network through recruitment and migration in the United States and Central America, often targeting for recruitment boys the same as this woman's son.

The woman and her son sit in the back of the car on a dusty road as she relays her account, both of them wearing black and white soccer jerseys.

Members of MS-13 routinely prowl the Tegucigalpa neighborhood where they lived, she says. The gang uses them as "halcones," or look-outs, she said. They give them guns and post them around their territory, grooming them to become gang members, she said.

On Saturday, gang members came to her home with an ultimatum, she said, tears rolling down her face: Give up her son to them or they would both be killed.

They fled the next morning, she said. Her son is an American citizen, born in Dallas, Texas, and she hoped they would find safety, along with medical care for an untreated tumor in his nose.

Her son starts to cry as he hears her story. He didn't want to leave Honduras, he says, and he's sorry for putting them in this position.

She says she had no idea that, until recently, families were being separated at the border. But she still would have come even if she knew, she said. It was her son's wish that they leave.

"For me, it was very difficult. I had a normal life," she said. "Of course, I would never let my son be captured."

A life-or-death choice

The man in the group describes equally dire circumstances. His three-year-old son squirms next to him as he shares his story.

He's says he's here from Honduras because he's a victim of extortion. Strangers would show up to his house and ask for money, threatening to kill him and his sons, he said. He told police but they did nothing, leaving him wondering if they were possibly involved, he said.

He had to leave and seek asylum at the border, he said. He left behind a one-year-old in a place where he hopes he'll be safe. The journey with a child was difficult, he said, with many sleepless nights.

He also says he did not know about the family separation policy when he left. But he said he would prefer, "a million times" over, a few days struggling in the United States than one more in Honduras under the threat of death.

What does he think of people who might say he doesn't belong in the United States? Those who think he's a criminal who should be detained and deported?

"Those people are people who maybe haven't lived what one (like me) lives through."

Huntsville
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 73°
Florence
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 73°
Fayetteville
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 72°
Decatur
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 73°
Scottsboro
Overcast
75° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 75°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 44375

Reported Deaths: 984
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5410152
Montgomery4158103
Mobile4129134
Tuscaloosa232142
Marshall172410
Madison14917
Lee141137
Shelby133423
Morgan11215
Walker97824
Elmore94314
Franklin89814
Baldwin8949
Dallas8919
Etowah75013
DeKalb7375
Chambers64227
Butler63428
Autauga61012
Tallapoosa60569
Russell5650
Houston5074
Unassigned50323
Limestone5010
Lauderdale4966
Lowndes47221
Cullman4594
Pike4375
Colbert4086
St. Clair4022
Escambia3966
Coffee3812
Calhoun3765
Covington3707
Bullock36910
Barbour3532
Talladega3177
Hale31421
Marengo31211
Dale2990
Wilcox2948
Sumter28512
Jackson2842
Clarke2776
Winston2633
Chilton2522
Blount2431
Monroe2392
Pickens2366
Marion23313
Conecuh2107
Randolph2099
Macon1999
Choctaw19512
Bibb1941
Greene1868
Perry1791
Henry1363
Crenshaw1253
Washington1117
Lawrence1100
Cherokee1027
Geneva830
Lamar781
Fayette711
Clay692
Coosa591
Cleburne381
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 52039

Reported Deaths: 652
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby11936201
Davidson11205121
Rutherford304035
Hamilton280435
Sumner163652
Trousdale14985
Williamson134015
Knox12098
Out of TN11987
Wilson96317
Putnam9067
Robertson83911
Sevier8303
Bradley7454
Lake6940
Tipton6495
Unassigned6351
Bledsoe6211
Bedford5705
Montgomery5677
Macon4874
Maury3573
Hardeman3524
Hamblen3434
Fayette3232
Madison3052
Loudon2881
Rhea2850
Dyer2543
McMinn23918
Cheatham2321
Blount2293
Dickson2120
Cumberland1834
Washington1740
Lawrence1646
Lauderdale1513
Anderson1442
Monroe1416
Jefferson1372
Gibson1291
Smith1221
Sullivan1212
Coffee1200
Greene1142
Obion1132
Hardin1097
Cocke940
Haywood932
Marshall921
Franklin883
Wayne880
Hickman800
Warren780
McNairy760
Marion744
White733
DeKalb680
Carter651
Lincoln650
Weakley641
Overton631
Giles621
Hawkins622
Roane620
Grundy611
Unicoi550
Campbell511
Carroll481
Claiborne480
Henderson480
Polk460
Henry450
Johnson440
Grainger410
Sequatchie410
Crockett403
Cannon370
Chester350
Perry340
Meigs320
Humphreys292
Jackson290
Morgan271
Fentress230
Stewart230
Decatur220
Union190
Clay180
Scott170
Houston150
Benton131
Moore130
Van Buren70
Hancock60
Lewis60
Pickett60

 

 

Community Events