Immigrants describe fear, violence

CNN's Nick Valencia is on the US-Mexico border and spoke to an apprehended mother about what drove her to cross the border with her son.

Posted: Jun 29, 2018 11:22 AM
Updated: Jun 29, 2018 11:35 AM

The woman says she had a "normal' life in Honduras' capitol -- a home, a job and a son she'd do anything to protect.

The threat of gangs was always present, she said: in the past year, three boys from her neighborhood were killed for refusing to join MS-13. Then the violence came into her home and threatened to take her son, she said, leaving her no choice but to flee to the United States.

Less than a week later, they were captured on the banks of the Rio Grande by an agent with US Customs and Border Protection.

CNN was with a CBP agent when he encountered the mother and her son with four other migrants -- a man and his three-year-old son and two unaccompanied minors. Per CBP's order, CNN is not naming the migrants.

They are among many families coming across the border each day, seemingly unaware of the political furor over their fate as they leave their homes fearing for their lives. Their clean clothes and relatively fresh appearance suggest they intended to cross legally and may not have been trying to evade capture, agent Robert Rodriguez said.

But their future remains unclear amid the fluid conditions created by the administration's zero tolerance approach to prosecuting illegal border entry. While the Justice Department will continue to prosecute adults in federal court who cross the border illegally, President Donald Trump's executive order asks that families be housed together "where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources."

The CBP agent followed a raft upstream carrying the group to a landing. He encountered them in a thicket of tall grass and trees, and told them he would bring them to a central processing center in McAllen, Texas. After he brought them to a vehicle, he gave them water and asked several questions to ensure they were OK.

Before they began the next part of their journey, they shared some details of the life-or-death choices that brought them to this point.

'I would never let my son be captured'

Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, originated decades ago among Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles, using violent crime to intimidate rival gangs, law enforcement and the public. The gang has expanded its network through recruitment and migration in the United States and Central America, often targeting for recruitment boys the same as this woman's son.

The woman and her son sit in the back of the car on a dusty road as she relays her account, both of them wearing black and white soccer jerseys.

Members of MS-13 routinely prowl the Tegucigalpa neighborhood where they lived, she says. The gang uses them as "halcones," or look-outs, she said. They give them guns and post them around their territory, grooming them to become gang members, she said.

On Saturday, gang members came to her home with an ultimatum, she said, tears rolling down her face: Give up her son to them or they would both be killed.

They fled the next morning, she said. Her son is an American citizen, born in Dallas, Texas, and she hoped they would find safety, along with medical care for an untreated tumor in his nose.

Her son starts to cry as he hears her story. He didn't want to leave Honduras, he says, and he's sorry for putting them in this position.

She says she had no idea that, until recently, families were being separated at the border. But she still would have come even if she knew, she said. It was her son's wish that they leave.

"For me, it was very difficult. I had a normal life," she said. "Of course, I would never let my son be captured."

A life-or-death choice

The man in the group describes equally dire circumstances. His three-year-old son squirms next to him as he shares his story.

He's says he's here from Honduras because he's a victim of extortion. Strangers would show up to his house and ask for money, threatening to kill him and his sons, he said. He told police but they did nothing, leaving him wondering if they were possibly involved, he said.

He had to leave and seek asylum at the border, he said. He left behind a one-year-old in a place where he hopes he'll be safe. The journey with a child was difficult, he said, with many sleepless nights.

He also says he did not know about the family separation policy when he left. But he said he would prefer, "a million times" over, a few days struggling in the United States than one more in Honduras under the threat of death.

What does he think of people who might say he doesn't belong in the United States? Those who think he's a criminal who should be detained and deported?

"Those people are people who maybe haven't lived what one (like me) lives through."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
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Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
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Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
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Union633897
Pike5924156
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Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
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Tate4748116
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Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
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Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
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Stone365666
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Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 844594

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1160612006
Mobile741651379
Madison53255732
Shelby38313368
Baldwin38061589
Tuscaloosa35996641
Montgomery34473781
Lee25541263
Calhoun22582518
Morgan22441406
Etowah20009517
Marshall18771316
Houston17723425
St. Clair16863358
Limestone16123218
Cullman16032303
Elmore15902294
Lauderdale14945306
Talladega14186299
DeKalb12957269
Walker12011380
Blount10700192
Autauga10512157
Jackson10151194
Coffee9412192
Colbert9325208
Dale9013191
Tallapoosa7248201
Russell707465
Chilton7015170
Escambia6951143
Covington6926195
Franklin6337108
Chambers5778142
Marion5400130
Dallas5283209
Pike5114109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4777110
Geneva4640136
Bibb434094
Barbour369180
Butler3433100
Marengo342393
Monroe336666
Randolph334067
Pickens333188
Fayette329885
Henry320566
Hale317989
Cherokee316963
Crenshaw260477
Washington256952
Cleburne254360
Lamar251253
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192762
Coosa184647
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139041
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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