KTEP - El Paso, Texas

Why Hondurans Head North

Oct 28, 2018
Originally published on October 28, 2018 12:44 pm
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

According to a social media post, the alleged synagogue shooter was obsessed with immigration and the caravan of Central American migrants headed to the U.S. highlighted by the president and others on the right. We have an update now from our Carrie Kahn who is in Honduras where many of the migrants are from. The numbers of migrants in the caravan have steadily declined since departing the country more than two weeks ago. Some have dropped out. Some stayed in Mexico. And others have been deported. She reports many have landed back in the place where the caravan originally started, the central bus station in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Late at night, the dimly lit station throws dark shadows over small groups of people spread out on the concrete platforms.

(CROSSTALK)

KAHN: Josue Nunez is sprawled out on a thin piece of cardboard. The skinny 22-year-old is nursing a quarter-sized swollen blister on the arch of his foot. He just spent the last week walking north trying to catch up with the caravan now in Southern Mexico. He didn't make it. He was caught by immigration officials, put on a bus and deported back here to Honduras.

JOSUE NUNEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "I tried to keep going, but my feet hurt so much. I couldn't walk anymore," he says. The officials caught him and a group of 50 others. Melvin Jimenez was also deported.

MELVIN JIMENEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "I wanted to go with the original caravan but couldn't scrape up cash fast enough," says Jimenez. Word spread quickly through social media and cable news back on October 12 that people were gathering here at the bus station ready to head north. By nightfall, thousands were on buses out of this violent city. More than a third of the country's homicides are committed here. Jimenez says along with the violence, there are also not enough jobs.

JIMENEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Food prices keep going up. Bus tickets go up. Medicine, everything, but our salaries - they stay the same," he says. "The poverty here is killing us." He says he can't feed his four kids. Two-thirds of Hondurans live in poverty. Corruption and impunity add to the rampant violence forcing people out with most turning to the U.S. for safety. That's what 18-year-old Milton Mendoza had hoped for, but he was just deported from the U.S. and is waiting here to catch a bus back to his hometown.

MILTON MENDOZA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "I left because the gangs threatened to kill me. I want to live, but I can't do it here," says Mendoza. He says he spent three months in a U.S. detention center fighting for asylum but lost his claim.

MENDOZA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "I don't know what's going to happen to me now," he says. "I'm young and a fighter, and I just want to grow older. But how can you here?" he adds. A half-dozen government workers sitting at a long table at one end of the bus station say they'll help those who want to stay in the country.

MARTA IRIS ALBARENGA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Marta Iris Albarenga takes out the contents of a large plastic bag she's been handing to migrants. They're small packages of sugar, rice and other staples.

ALBARENGA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Most people say they leave because there's no work. But if you want work, you'll find it," she says. "These people just want to embarrass our president," she adds.

JIMENEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Melvin Jimenez, the 34-year-old father of four, says that's a lie. And that bag of food is the first help the government has ever given him. A group of men lying in a darkened hallway didn't take the free food. They're waiting for a bus north to the border. They say they're going to try and catch up with the caravan in Mexico heading to the U.S.

JUAN: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Juan, a 17-year-old boy who was too afraid to give his full name, says, "if they haven't stopped the caravan by the time we get there, then we'll join it. My family is so poor here, I have to go. I have to help them," he says. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

(SOUNDBITE OF HELIOS SONG, "THE OBEISANT VINE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.