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Caravans arrive in Piedras Negras

February 2019

We do not support illegal immigration, in fact our help in the colonias helps people to remain in Mexico. But, some of our supporters have asked what we know about the people in Piedras Negras,and on the 7th and 8th of February I walked those streets and visited shelters to discover what might not be in media reports.
From officials and migrants I learned of their journeys. Although widely reported on social media, these people did not board chartered buses in Honduras and simply ride to Piedras Negras. The word filtered through towns in Honduras that people living in fear qualify for asylum in the U.S. and that the United States of America protects people in danger because of the violence and gangs. At least a dozen Honduran men and women told me this and each said, "The people lied to us, and now we are here."

They described their journey and officials confirmed that their description is accurate. "We left on foot. We hitched rides and then jumped on to the trains. We road on the flat-cars, held on to the ladders, and rode trains. At certain places, we jumped off, kept walking and hitched rides. We slept on the side of roads, drank water where we found it, and moved as a large group. The people guiding us for a fee said we were safer in a large group. We know that without a large group, the gangs and the police would rob us, and abuse women."

Boarded Charter Buses provided by Mexican Government about 250 miles from Piedras

"In Santillo and another city we were met by officials from the Mexican government. There were big buses that they said would take us directly to Piedras. We were skeptical. Some said it was a trap and they would return us to Honduras. Most of us climbed on a bus. Others kept walking."

"The buses took us into Piedras and directly to what they said was a shelter. It was surrounded by police and we were told that we could leave after we were interviewed about asylum. It would take five days. After the interviews were finished we were told we can leave but must return before dark."

"Some people were told that they cannot succeed with asylum and were sent home."

On the Streets of Piedras Negras

Hundreds of migrants did no board the buses live in private shelters and on the streets. Most have no money. Some have blankets and coats. Some have children. I met two women with children waiting outside of a shelter. Like every private shelter I visited, the shelter was filled. There is no room at the Inn, came to mind when I held one of the babies.
This particular immigrant shelter existed for decades. It provides beds, showers, access to a washing machine, medical care by caring, but untrained people, home made medicine and some over the counter medicines donated by doctors, donated clothing and practical information about what to expect in the United States. People are urged to turn themselves in to U.S. immigration authorities and to be cooperative, honest, and non-threatening. People can only remain at these types of shelters for about 4-days and must leave so others can received temporary help. When a few people leave, a few more of those waiting outside may enter.

These types of shelters are privately funded and often supported by a local church.

These shelters keep records and cooperate with U.S. law enforcement in 'death' investigations.
I met Maria and Guadalupe (they asked that their real names not be used) standing among a group of 50 people outside a migrant shelter. Everyone said they were from Honduras and were told that the Untied States would quickly accept them because they need protection. Some used the term "asilo"- asylum. I told the group that I wanted to help any sick children. Slowly a man and woman, with a young boy approached. After ascertaining that there son needed medical help but was not in immediate danger, I promised to return after I find a good doctor. (Some doctors in Mexico are not very good). I saw a woman holding a baby and she nodded and walked towards me. Her infant might have the flu, she said. The baby has difficulty swallowing and feels warm. We agreed that I would shortly return and both women and their children would be taken to a good doctor.

When I asked what the group needed the most, everyone said food. They were all hungry. "We cannot leave here until after 7 because between now and 7 the shelter may release some people who have been here for the 4-days. When they release some, they take more into the shelter. At 7, they close." They told me stories of police beatings, being robbed, and said they spend the night hiding. They fear being sent to the 'big government place where they would not be allowed to leave'. Several men in this group admitted to prior deportations and felony arrests in the U.S. They still hoped for asylum. They asked my opinion and I told them they would probably be jailed for re-entering the country again.