Friday, May 9, 2008

Migrant Experiences

We are now at the Guatemala Border with Mexico. We had a wonderful experience in Guatemala City that really plugged us into the circle of migrants that we are now surrounded by. The Scalabrini Order of the Catholic church is completely dedicated to the welfare of migrants. We have found that there are about 20 institutions set up to assist migrants in North and Central America alone. At the house in Guatemala city named the "Casa Del Migrante" we were able to conduct interviews with six people two of whom were workers at the mission and four were migrants currently making the journey to the United States or on their way back after an unsuccessful attempt. One man was a native Ecuadorian who was returning unsuccessfully from his second and final attempt to realize his dream in the United States. His was a heartbreaking story. During his first attempt through Central America he experienced a shipwreck during the trip from Ecuador (In South America) to Guatemala, that he told us almost took his life. Thankfully his boat was in a caravan that had 140 other migrants aboard. With the help of the other boats they were able to restart the engine and continue to Guatemala. Had they been traveling alone their possibilities for survival would have been slim. The boat was out in the middle of nowhere full of illegal migrants, helpless. As scary as that was, he told us, it did not get any better as he progressed. Once through the Guatemala/Mexico border he hopped on a freight train, after two hours aboard the train he told us that everyone in the freight car was shivering. He told us that had he succeeded in finishing the trip on the 10 hour train he would have been "half dead". Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately in his case the train was stopped after two hours and was searched by the "migra". He was quickly found and deported back to his home country. But the dream did not end quite yet. On his second attempt, now wary of travel by boat he decided to buy a round trip to Honduras legally and simply not return. On this attempt Julio and his family opted to get a Coyote to insure that he make it across the border. Coyotes cost at least five thousand dollars and can get much higher. This number is almost unfathomable to a farmer such as Julio and he left Ecuador on borrowed money gambling that he would make up the money to pay off his debt. Once in Guatemala he met with the Coyote in a Hotel. Unfortunately the Coyote did not uphold his end of the bargain. The Coyote canceled the deal and robbed Julio of his borrowed money. Julio was locked in the hotel for 15 days until he managed to escape. He ran up a mountain to get away from the Coyote as he was shot at. Migrants such as Julio are targeted frequently by bandits because of their social position. On his way down the mountain robbers took the last borrowed $300 he had leaving him penniless. With nothing to his name and not wanting to further his families increasing debt he decided to give up in Guatemala. He was picked up by the police and taken to the Ecuadorian Consulate. At the Consulate he was told that now he must pay for a $600 ticket home. People like Julio have bleak options. In Julio´s case he told us that he is now forced to sell his house and does not know how he will come up with the money. In a tearful call home his wife begged him to come home, and that they would come up with the money somehow. "It´s better to live. If I had been shot and died my family would have nothing." Julio said contemplating his recent experience. Now Julio is saddled with a debt well over five thousand dollars. Unfortunately his story is all too common here.

Written by Steve Eaton


Kristi said...

Julio's story is heart wrenching and brings tears to my eyes. It's obvious that these people are facing such dire circumstances that they are willing to try so many times despite the consequences. I have one question though, who are the coyotes normally? Are we talking americans, border people, people with connections, who?


nate said...

Coyotes can be any number of people. In the early days it could have just been someone who knew there way through the desert but now that border security has tightened, most Coyotes I have heard of have ties to organized crime and connections in the United States. One thing I learned while volunteering on the border is that the tighter security gets, it has not changed the number of migrants crossing but it has changed who can be a coyote. Since the government has sealed off most easy routes, the people still willing to take people across are the ones who care less about the people they are guiding.
As with any group of people there are good coyotes and bad coyotes but the impressions I have got almost everywhere are overwhelmingly negative.

machine said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing these stories, Nate, and for challenging me to think about this issue too. I'm glad to hear you're doing well and I really respect and admire you guys for being faithful to what God has placed on your hearts. I pray that God will continue to bless you!

Karen Genzink

John Paul Vicory said...

great stories guys. i appreciate your commitment to communication. I am praying for you, for more appointments. God loves you guys and he loves your heart behind all of this. take care, blessings