Unaccompanied Minors: View From Honduras

Editor’s Note: Robyn Fieser recently traveled to Honduras to report on CRS work with child migrants. The following is an informal update on her observations of the current unaccompanied minors crisis.

This story is so much more tragic than we can portray. We were desperate for footage so we decided to find a crime scene we heard about on the news at breakfast — you know, to show the violence people live with everyday.

So we ended up in some poor, shack-lined community off a dirt road. We shot two crime scenes, one where a guy in jeans was wrapped in a rice sack and dumped in a field. There he was, quiet as can be, all alone in the field. Who knows who he was? The police suspect gang activity. The other was a grave of three. They found it Saturday. As of Tuesday, the forensic team still hadn’t arrived to process the scene.

We spent the afternoon at the airport in the center for deportees. We interviewed a young woman who left four months ago because she was being threatened by gang members. They wanted her to sell drugs for them. She refused. They said they would kill her and she believed them.

She took off for the US with her 13-year-old nephew, whose dad was murdered recently and whose mom moved to New York when he was three. She left with fantasies of being granted asylum. After an hour-long interview, she waited a month for them to tell her, by phone in a booth, that her case wasn’t credible. She sighed as we got near her neighborhood and said: “Almost back in the wolf’s mouth.”

Another telling moment this week was watching a two-year-old, who just made the treacherous trip from Honduras to Mexico and back again, scream out of fear when we tried to put him on a mechanical horse at the bus station. Nothing makes any sense here.

When we talk about family reunification, it just doesn’t cover it. Everybody here has lived chunks of their lives without the people they need. Without mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. In that absence, people turn to gangs. Gangs turn on their neighbors. People are desperate. And on top of that they’re desperately poor.

The girl going back to the wolf’s mouth, she makes $350 a month giving out samples at a supermarket. With that she has to take care of her mother, who doesn’t work because she’s clinically depressed. She’s been like that since the girl can remember. Definitely since her father was stabbed to death on the street more than 15 years ago.

It seems to me that you can’t separate any of the factors we’ve been talking about — the poverty, the violence, and the broken families. Every story has some element of each.

I think we’re right to call this a humanitarian crisis.

So that’s my update. We have had some trouble finding underage kids willing to talk on camera (people are just scared) but we’re making do.

And hug your families.

Robyn Fieser is CRS regional information officer for Latin America and the Caribbean. She is based in the Dominican Republic.

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