WorldViews

The long road to asylum

EDGARD GARRIDO/REUTERS

Right now, in the town of Tijuana, 150 asylum seekers from Central America are camping out along the border, hoping the Trump administration will offer what they traveled 2,500 miles in a caravan to secure: refuge from violence and instability back home.

What comes next remains unclear. But what is known are the lengths to which these migrants went to get here, a journey that began in late March on the border of Mexico and Guatemala and ended last week at the San Ysidro crossing into California.

This is a look at that long trek — made by bus and train with uncertainty as their only guarantee.

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Leslie Shapiro/The Washington Post

About a week into the journey north, the caravan of migrants stopped off in Matias Romero, Oaxaca state, and then Puebla City. The humanitarian group Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders) planned the annual trip — called Migrant Viacrucis.

Leslie Shapiro/The Washington Post

Early on, coverage by conservative media raised the caravan’s profile. President Trump called it a "disgrace" and vowed to send the National Guard to protect the border. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the caravan was "a deliberate attempt to undermine our laws and overwhelm our system." Meanwhile, the migrants — mostly women and children from Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua — carried little and slept where there was room: gyms, parks, tents.

Leslie Shapiro/The Washington Post

Jordi Ruiz Cirera/Bloomberg/VICTORIA RAZO/AFP/Getty Images

When Genesis Martinez gave birth to her son, Cesar, the woman she was working for near Mexico’s southern border threw her out. So Martinez, 18, and her baby joined the caravan.

Felix Marquez/AP

Felix Marquez/AP/VICTORIA RAZO/AFP/Getty Images

The caravan advocates for Central Americans within Mexico’s challenged asylum system — not just the United States. Some migrants, like this woman, received temporary transit visas from Mexican immigration authorities.

Felix Marquez/AP

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Migrants in the caravan packed light, a necessity when traveling with hundreds of people thousands of miles by bus and train. Along the way there were hellos — and goodbyes.

Felix Marquez/AP

Felix Marquez/AP

Leslie Shapiro/The Washington Post

Not even two weeks into their journey, the organizers announced that the caravan had swelled to an unmanageable 1,000 migrants. They were forced to end the formal trip in Mexico City. But a smaller contingent pressed beyond the capital city, traveling by foot, bus and train. In Washington, Trump warned on Twitter that a "big Caravan" was "now coming across Mexico and heading to our ‘Weak Laws’ Border." Tensions over a potential political standoff escalated.

Leslie Shapiro/The Washington Post

Those who stayed in Mexico City held a rally, and those with the resolve to continue boarded “La Bestia,” or The Beast, the notorious and dangerous freight trains that migrants often ride north.

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Luis Gutierrez/AP/Edgard Garrido/Reuters

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Passengers of The Beast, like Nicaraguan migrant Jesus Emmanuel Diaz Rubio, got off the train in Hermosillo in late April and prepared for the final leg of the journey: 500 miles by bus to Tijuana.

Luis Gutierrez/AP

John Moore/Getty Images

Before departing, migrants marched in solidarity to protest President Trump’s tweets calling on U.S. Homeland Security to stop the caravan — which had dwindled to several hundred — when it reached the border.

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Though conservatives said the caravan threatened border security, most migrants planned to seek asylum in the United States, a status granted only through legal entry at the border. Would Trump’s America let them in?

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Leslie Shapiro/The Washington Post

After a month and thousands of miles of traveling, the informal caravan began arriving in the border city of Tijuana the last week of April. The 150 asylum seekers shared stories of gang violence and political instability in their homelands. They sat atop the border fence and waved the Honduran flag. They and their supporters marched on both sides of Friendship Park — a half-acre area straddling San Diego and Tijuana built in 1971 as a symbol of binational solidarity. "May there never be a wall between these two great nations," first lady Pat Nixon said at the dedication. "Only friendship."

Leslie Shapiro/The Washington Post

Elbia Ramos, Carlos Aldana and their 1-year-old daughter Fernanda Aldana-Ramos fled Honduras after two of Aldana’s brothers were killed. They feared for their lives and headed north.

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post

The emotional journey to the U.S. border brought Sarai del Carmen Carranza to tears as she waited at the San Ysidro port of entry, which had room for 300 people.

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post

There, Carolina Garcia, 16, rested her head against the Honduran flag, and nearby families lined up for food. Even then, at the doorstep of their final destination, the caravan’s fate remained unclear.

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post

So they settled in for an unknown number of nights on donated blankets and blue tarps. They scanned Tijuana newspapers for scraps of information.

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post

After a month of traveling and tweets from Trump, the first group of eight migrants from the caravan — three mothers, four children and an 18-year-old male — were escorted to San Diego to begin the process of applying for asylum. By Tuesday night, the number had jumped to 25.

"Since we left Tapachula, the president has been saying we’re terrorists who are going to enter the country, but it’s not true," said Luis Alexander Rodriguez Pineda, 18, who came from El Salvador with his cousin and his uncle to escape death threats against him from gangs. "Now we’re waiting for his answer. But we know that he has no right to deny us asylum."

EDGARD GARRIDO/REUTERS