In Sight

‘My life is at risk’: Voices from the migrant caravan

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post

Some 150 asylum seekers from Central America traveled more than 2,500 miles to reach the U.S. border at Tijuana, Mexico this week. Along the way, they endured violence, exhaustion and angry tweets from President Trump.

They also endured uncertainty. They had no guarantee that U.S. officials would let them in. And no assurance that the "Land of Opportunity" would offer them a better life.

Here are a few of the migrants who made it to Tijuana and what they hope for next.

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post

“We’re not going to leave.”

Alexander Marcelo Calderón, 27

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Alexander Calderón and his family lived in a city along Mexico’s southern border, in the city of Ciudad Hidalgo, before joining the caravan. They are among the many asylum seekers who have decided to stay in northern Mexico instead of crossing into the United States.

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“If we didn’t pay them, they would kill us. That’s the reality. We have to follow their orders.”

Bessy Arias, 37

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Bessy Arias had to pay a gang in her neighborhood in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to keep her small business open. When they demanded more, she fled to Mexico with members of her family. Here, she waits for legal advice with her daughter, Natalie, 8, and another mother and child.

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“I’m feeling happy but nervous at the same time. What if they don’t give us asylum and send us back to our country?”

Reina Carolina García Marin, 16

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In San Pedro Sula, Honduras, a gang raped one of Reina Carolina García Marin’s close friends. Marin was told she was next on the list. Then the gang tried to forcibly recruit her younger brother, Bairon. Both left Honduras with their mother and younger sister to seek safety in the United States.

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“I’m asking God what’s going to happen. It seems unfair to arrive all the way here, and then for them to say no.”

Hector David Salgado, 24

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Hector David Salgado was a mechanic in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where gangs charged him 5,000 lempiras a week -- about $210 -- to continue operating his business. When Salgado was unable to come up with the money, they gave him 32 hours to leave.

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“My life is at risk, and so are the lives of my children.”

Irma Rivera, 31

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Irma Rivera’s husband was killed last year in a field on the outskirts of Trujillo, Honduras. Rivera plans to ask for asylum with her daughter, Suany Rodriguez, and son, Jesus Rodriguez. Rivera fears they all would be in danger if they returned to Trujillo.

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“I left my country to look for a better life.”

Josue David Rodriguez, 15

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Josue David Rodriguez disappeared from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, without telling anyone. He left after a gang tried to forcibly recruit him. He was 14. The gang members said they would kill him if he didn’t join.

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“Let’s see what God says — and the government on the other side.”

William Rafael Carranza Martines, 24

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William Rafael Carranza Martinez and Teresa Jesus Leiba Guardado, 22, came from La Paz, El Salvador, after gangs held them at gunpoint in their home. The couple were married on the beach in Mexico before requesting asylum with their 5-year-old daughter, Marcela Guadalupe Carranza Leiba.

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“We used to sometimes play soccer in a field, and they came there to threaten us. They said that if we didn’t join us, we were not going to see the light of day.”

Josue Coello Mazariego, 17

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Gang members rounded up Josue Coello Mazariego and his friends in El Progreso, Honduras, and held them for several hours before letting them go. Mazariego was told to forget about his family. Mazariego was among the unaccompanied minors to travel on the migrant caravan.

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“The plan is just to stay alive, and then to let our children have a better future, so they can run freely, without fear.”

Maritza Flores Delgado, 38

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Maritza Flores Delgado fled with her young daughter, Perla Ruby Flores, 3, leaving Santa Ana, El Salvador, with only the clothes they were wearing. Despite the gang violence there, she is uncertain about their chances of receiving asylum in the United States.

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“There are a lot of drug traffickers there.”

Carlos Aldana

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post

Carlos Aldana said he and his family fled rural Honduras after drug traffickers murdered two of his brothers. One brother had worked in the United States for 20 years to save money to buy land, but after gold was discovered on it, a gang tried to force the family off. Aldana said he spent the past year too scared to leave his house.

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Editor's note: The spelling on all individuals' names reflects how they wrote them on their photos.

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post