CIUDADJUÁREZ, Mexico—The children fell from a white van, sleepy and exhausted, rubbing their eyes to sleep.
They have been traveling north without their parents, hoping to cross the border and enter the United States.
They never did it.
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They were detained by Mexican immigration officials and taken to a shelter for unaccompanied minors in Ciudad Juarez, where they marched in a row, side by side, and lined up against the wall. For them, the facility about 1 mile from the border is their closest facility to the United States.
“‘Mom, I have bad news for you,'” Elizabeth, a thirteen-year-old girl from a shelter in Honduras, recalled telling her mother on the phone. “‘Don’t cry, but Mexican immigrants caught me.'”
Minors in shelters are part of a growing wave of immigrants who want to find a way into the United States, partly because they think President Joe Biden is more tolerant of immigration issues than his predecessor Donald Trump Degree is higher. According to documents obtained by the New York Times, border officials encountered more than 170,000 immigrants in March. This number has increased by nearly 70% from February and is the highest monthly total since 2006.
Documents show that among these immigrants, more than 18,700 were unaccompanied minors detained at border crossings, almost twice the figure in February and more than five times the 3,490 detained in February 2020. .
If they cross the border, unaccompanied minors can try to brief the US authorities, go to school, find a job one day and help relatives return home. Some can be reunited with their parents waiting there.
But for those arrested before crossing the border, the long northern end of the road ends in Mexico.
If they come from other parts of the country, due to the economic losses caused by the epidemic, they are increasing in number, they can be picked up by relatives and taken home.
But most of them are from Central America, and their lives unsustainable due to poverty, violence, natural disasters and pandemics are advancing north, and are encouraged by the Biden administration’s pledge to adopt a more generous immigration approach.
They will wait several months in a shelter in Mexico to make arrangements. Then they will be deported.
The journey north is not easy, and young immigrants who are adventurous must grow up quickly.
In the shelters, most are teenagers, but some are only 5 years old. Traveling alone, without parents-a group of children, or with relatives or family and friends-they may fall into criminal networks, often take advantage of immigration opportunities, and enter border guards who decide to stop them. But they continue to try to thousands.
“For economic reasons, there will be a large influx of people, and unless the lives of the people in these countries improve, it will not stop,” said He Sai Alfredo Villa said.
Local authorities say that in 2018, 1,318 children in Ciudad Juarez were housed in unaccompanied minor shelters. By 2019, this number had increased to 1,510, although it dropped to 928 last year due to the pandemic.
But in the first 2 1/2 months of this year, this number soared to 572. If this ratio is maintained, it will greatly exceed the total reached in 2019, the highest on record.
When minors enter the shelter, their studies will cease, and the staff cannot provide courses for many people from different countries and different educational backgrounds. Instead, minors use art classes to enrich their lives, where they often draw or paint pictures of their homeland. They watch TV, play in the yard or do housework to help the shelter run like a laundry room.
From El Paso, Texas, through the city of Juarez in Rio Grande, the scene only tells a story nearly 2,000 miles from the border.
Elizabeth is 13 years old and is from Villanueva, Honduras. She said that when Mexican authorities detained her in early March, she thought of her mother in Maryland and how disappointed she would be.
Elizabeth said that when she called from the shelter, her mother was ecstatic at first, thinking she had passed. Then, my mother started crying when she heard the news.
Elizabeth said: “I told her not to cry.” “We will meet again.”
The New York Times agreed to use the middle names of all unaccompanied minors interviewed to protect their identities. The caseworkers at the shelter confirmed their family situation and case profile, and they kept in touch with relatives and the authorities of the country where they were located to arrange deportation.
If Elizabeth crossed the river into Texas, her life would be different now. Even if arrested by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, she will be released to her mother, and there will be a court date to file an asylum case.
Whether her asylum application is successful will be uncertain. In 2019, 71% of all cases involving unaccompanied minors were deported. But many people never attended the hearing. They avoided the authorities, hid among the population, and lived an escape life.
For most of the minors in the shelter, arrest in Mexico is just one thing: deport them back to Central America.
The head of the shelter, Vera, said that in the first three months of this year, about 460 minors were expelled from the shelter in Juarez. He said that they often wait for months because Mexican officials routinely strive for cooperation from Central American countries to coordinate deportations.
Elizabeth does not know who will take care of her if she is deported to Honduras. She said that her father left the family when she was born, and the grandmother who lived with her was about to die.
She said that when Elizabeth’s mother left in 2017, she broke up.
Mother borrowed a loan to support Elizabeth. Elizabeth said that when the loan shark family demanded repayment, she went to the United States to find a job.
“When my mother left, I felt my soul left, my soul,” she cried.
Elizabeth’s mother has achieved good results in Maryland’s landscaping work, and she wants to save her daughter’s adventure to the United States. But when her grandmother’s health prevented her from taking care of Elizabeth, it was the girl’s turn to say goodbye.
Elizabeth said that she doubted whether she would see her grandmother again.
In early March, Elizabeth reached Rio Grande on the northern border of Mexico. When the local authorities arrested her and pulled her out of the water, she began to wade towards Texas.
Mexican immigration officials took her to the Nohemí Álvarez Quillay shelter, which was named after an Ecuadorian girl who committed suicide in another shelter in Juarez in 2014 after being detained. She is 12 years old and is reunited with her parents who have lived in New York City since she was a child.
In mid-March, two weeks after Elizabeth arrived, she celebrated her 13th birthday in the shelter.
When the shelter staff cut cakes for Elizabeth (minors are prohibited from carrying sharp objects), three more children were put down by immigration authorities, only a few hours after the arrival of the eight children that morning. They watched cartoons while waiting for shelter officials to register.
Elizabeth’s best friend since arriving in Elizabeth, 15-year-old Yuliana was by her side. In December last year, the Mexican tried to hold his 2-year-old cousin and dragged his 4-year-old child across the border. , Was arrested by Mexican authorities. Cousin. Yuliana is from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, one of the most violent cities in the world.
Both girls said that before they made the difficult decision to immigrate to the United States, they had witnessed their parents fighting to put food on the table. Both sides believed that their failure made them place great expectations: reunite with a lonely parent, work and send money to the money left to the family.
For girls, home is not a place-Honduras or America. Home is the residence of their family. That’s where they want it.
Yuliana said: “My dream is to succeed and raise my family.” “First of all, to help my mother and brothers. My family.”
She said that on the day she left San Pedro Sula and went to Florida to join her father, her mother made a promise.
“She wants me to never forget her,” Juliana said. “And I replied that I would never, because I am going to find her.”
This article was originally published in The New York Times.
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