THE MIGRANTS' JOURNEY
where are migrants coming from and why?
The vast majority of migrants arriving at the southern US border during this crisis are from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. These are countries in Central America (just below Mexico) which are experiencing high rates of violence and poverty due to prior foreign destabilization, climate change, and criminal-based violence.
Most of the migrants are one or more parents travelling with one or more of their children, seeking safety for their families. Some are men and young men escaping from threats to their life in their home countries. Some migrants are seeking relief from poverty in their home countries. Some are unaccompanied children that have been sent by their parents towards the perceived safety of the US. These migrants would like to request asylum in the United States.
what happens when migrants get to the border of the US?
When families arrive at the border, they encounter the Rio Grande River, a bridge over it, and a United States border patrol station on the other side of the bridge. This station is called a 'port of entry'. Many people approach the bridge, but are turned away from crossing by US border patrol agents, preventing them from approaching to request asylum.
US border patrol agents create a list of persons waiting to enter the US, but require them to wait on the Mexico side of the bridge. At some ports of entry, only 25-30 people are allowed to cross and request asylum per day. The remainder wait under the bridges on the Mexico side until their name is called. This may take weeks or months.
Local humanitarian organizations are providing clothing, food, basic medical care, and kindness at these bridge locations. Members of these organizations also discourage migrants from trying to cross the border by swimming across the Rio Grande River.
what happens once migrants cross the border?
When the migrant's name is called and they are allowed to cross the bridge and enter the US, Customs and Border Patrol agents take them into custody. They enter into a detention facility. Sometimes children are separated from their parents at this point and taken to differing locations. All of their belongings, including shoelaces, hair-ties, rosaries, and belts are taken from them, leaving them with only the clothing they are wearing.
They wait in the detention facility. At some point, they see an immigration judge, who gives them the legal paperwork they need to stay in the US until their first hearing, and a date and place for that first hearing. That hearing will most often be the place in the US nearest to where they will be staying with whomever is sponsoring them. They must also bond out of the detention facility and are not allowed to leave until they have done so.
what happens to migrants when they leave detention?
After each family has the necessary paperwork for each member, they are put on a bus and dropped at the nearest bus station or other random location in a town near the detention facility.
Many of these towns have non-profit humanitarian groups who help the migrants make the transition to the location of their sponsors. After meeting them at the drop-off point, migrants are brought to central locations where they can shower, get a change of clothing and shoes if they need, eat hot meals, receive medical attention, and receive help coordinating how to pay for and get to their sponsor in the US. These organizations help the migrants get to their bus or plane with what they need for the next leg of their journey.
what happens then?
Migrants arrive at their sponsor's location and go with them. In some cases, these are family members or friends, In other cases, they are local organizations whose mission it is to help migrants transition to life in the US and navigate the legal system.
Migrants settle in to wait for their first hearing, which could happen within weeks, or in many cases months or years. They begin to learn English, find a way to support their family, find a place to live, and enroll their children in school. Asylum seeking migrants cannot apply for a legal work permit until their asylum request has been granted.
If the asylum case is denied, the migrant is subject to be removed from the US by deportation immediately.
One of the most important things you can do is educate your friends and acquaintances! Correct faulty information when you see it being spread, and offer answers to people's questions when they have them.