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
Scattered Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 83°
Florence
Broken Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 83°
Fayetteville
Few Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 80°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 83°
Scottsboro
Few Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 81°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 153016

Reported Deaths: 2633
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22563372
Mobile14335314
Tuscaloosa10023133
Montgomery9759196
Madison904893
Shelby709960
Lee644966
Baldwin640569
Marshall428248
Calhoun412759
Etowah405749
Morgan396833
Houston364632
DeKalb319628
Elmore310752
St. Clair282142
Limestone270828
Walker268892
Talladega258435
Cullman227623
Lauderdale208740
Autauga201029
Jackson200915
Franklin199731
Colbert192228
Russell19053
Dallas185627
Blount184824
Chilton181731
Escambia171328
Coffee16669
Covington166029
Dale163451
Pike130512
Chambers130143
Tallapoosa128686
Clarke127117
Marion104729
Butler99840
Barbour9889
Marengo97221
Winston90413
Geneva8417
Pickens80517
Lawrence80031
Randolph79814
Bibb79114
Hale74529
Cherokee72214
Clay71912
Lowndes70127
Henry6376
Bullock63517
Monroe6319
Washington62212
Crenshaw59330
Perry5806
Wilcox55912
Conecuh55713
Fayette55312
Cleburne5287
Macon52820
Sumter46721
Lamar4565
Choctaw38712
Greene33916
Coosa1973
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 233569

Reported Deaths: 2952
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby34523553
Davidson29914326
Knox1193687
Hamilton11197103
Rutherford11090106
Williamson665649
Sumner5664107
Wilson443153
Putnam415653
Montgomery387251
Out of TN377535
Unassigned37264
Madison363079
Bradley343421
Sullivan324845
Sevier317321
Blount313932
Washington313244
Maury308135
Robertson249839
Hamblen233843
Tipton220622
Gibson205938
Dyer203726
Hardeman179532
Coffee177420
Trousdale17437
Obion164918
Bedford159620
Dickson157318
Fayette157022
Anderson156713
Greene156551
Wayne15657
Loudon155010
McMinn152232
Cumberland150124
Lawrence147918
Jefferson146619
Weakley144425
Carter142832
Monroe137027
Henderson136125
Warren135110
Hardin132219
Lauderdale131918
Macon126324
Franklin122816
Roane12017
Haywood119526
Overton113311
Johnson11067
Hawkins110524
White110214
Carroll109424
McNairy109126
Marshall10568
Rhea104916
Cheatham97311
Lake9703
Smith94713
Cocke92612
Bledsoe9244
Giles90134
Campbell8857
Fentress8618
Lincoln8142
Crockett78321
Henry74610
Hickman74413
Chester71314
Marion7089
DeKalb67716
Decatur62811
Grainger5394
Grundy5248
Claiborne5046
Union4992
Polk47413
Jackson4225
Humphreys4154
Morgan4116
Houston39215
Benton3919
Cannon3872
Clay37112
Unicoi3672
Lewis3522
Scott3324
Sequatchie3294
Stewart3117
Meigs2965
Pickett2495
Moore2452
Perry2081
Van Buren1911
Hancock1123

Community Events