April 9, 2013

David is back!

Identities obscured

David and Delmy came to visit today. What a shock that was! I was so happy and relieved. I was really thinking the worst had happened. He got back home last night, courtesy of the US government. They sent him to San Pedro Sula, where he says the plane was met by Honduran Immigration who gave them something to eat and drink and money for a bus ticket to La Ceiba. I didn't think that Honduras did that. I thought it was a private organization that I've read about many times in the news, but he thought that it was the government.

He was captured when on his way from McAllen to Houston with about 20 other people and a coyote. The coyote and a few of the others got away. They had been walking from 6 am to 6 pm for four days through the countryside with a guide. A pregnant El Salvadoran was with them. Her leg swelled up with so much walking until she couldn't walk anymore. Two other men started carrying her. That slowed them down and he thinks that was part of the reason they were caught. He also said that some farmers saw them and probably reported them.

I'm not sure exactly where he was detained. I told him I had been checking the ICE detainee locator and that he never showed up on it. He said he was transferred two or three times. Each time the guards would come and tell him, "Get ready. You're leaving." He would think they were sending him home but instead, he would be transferred to another prison. What a let down.

I'm just amazed that he was able to come home so soon. I've read complaints (from Hondurans) that sometimes Hondurans languish in US detention centers for months waiting for the Honduran Consulate to prepare whatever paperwork it is that they have to prepare for the deportation to be processed. In fact, I met a woman a few years ago who that happened to. She was in a detention center for six months, but she said that they treated her well and that the food was good. David, who is now an expert on the US, says that the facilities used to be better but the government cut funding.

He told us that he'll have to come back to visit us five times to give us all the episodes of this telenovela (soap opera). He did tell us a lot, much of it confirmed what I've read recently about the journey, the coyotes, the narcos, the danger. He was robbed by a Mexican police of 300 pesos, all the money he had left, in return for allowing him to ride a bus through Mexico. On that one bus, he said there were about 25 people heading north. At the next stop, however, more police were waiting to be paid and he had nothing left. The police were demanding 400 pesos from each immigrant. One other immigrant offered to give 100 pesos for David and the police accepted it and let him continue. That was kind – of the other immigrant, I mean.

He also rode a train for part of the journey. He said there were about 500 other immigrants on that one train alone! The 'independents' rode on top of the train. Those with coyotes got to ride inside. That was before the coyote, so David rode on top of the train.

During the journey, he found out that he would never be able to cross the border without a coyote. His brother paid US $800 to a coyote for him and was supposed to pay another $1,700 when David arrived. David ended up having to wait 8 days in Reynosa, Mexico, about 20 minutes from the border. Reynosa has a cottage industry of people who are paid by the coyotes to put up the immigrants while they wait. He stayed with a single woman who shared her food with him. Apparently the narco groups, the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel control all the crossings. He said that the coyotes and the narcos are one and the same and that some of the Zetas are Hondurans.

I don't know how much of this is true and how much are rumors that he picked up, but he said that the immigrants are crossed Monday through Friday and on Sundays, the narcos move the drugs across. He also said that there are people waiting on the other side (US side) and if the immigrants didn't come through with an 'authorized' coyote or with the appropriate narco group, they are extorted again, or kidnapped, or killed.

He complained a lot about the food. In the jail or detention center or wherever he was, they didn't get much food and it wasn't good. He said that the inmates who worked (cleaning the prison or working in the kitchen) were paid US $1 day but the advantage was that they received four meals instead of one. Those people shared the extra food with David and others. The strangest thing of all was that the detainees were served sweet beans, like baked beans, I'm guessing. How strange is that? I don't understand that at all since regular beans are so cheap and so easy to make. Oh, I know it isn't supposed to be a hotel but it still seems strange to me. He said they would also get a slice of bread and some mashed potatoes with no salt. In another place they were given a hamburger for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

David has lost some weight but otherwise he is the same old David. He says that he won't try it again. Thank goodness! That was the first thing that I asked him.

Delmy has gotten a part time job at a US fast food restaurant. She said that she works 7 am-noon, six days a week and makes L.800-something a week. That's about US $40 a week! So she works 5 hours a day for about the same price as the cost of one combo, not super-sized. Can you see why people want to leave? She had a frightening experience while David was gone. One night two men tried to get into her house. She was alone with three children and was scared to death. She and the kids went to stay with her mother after that.

I told him that I wrote about him, that many people were very worried about him, and that some were even trying to find him in the system. He was surprised. Thank you all for writing, offering help, and your moral support.

Related articles:

March 16: Saying goodbye to another friend
March 17: Where is David?
March 19: More sequestered Hondurans in the US
March 25: No news is not good news

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