The path is impossible. Thousands of miles from South America. The jungle overrun by criminals. Giving birth on the way and sleeping in the weather. Insects, animals, dirt, deaths. Police extorting money. The river’s current rises to your neck, the lifeline snaps. On the other side, a row of patrol cars that blinds. There are those who cross: almost 15,000 migrants arrived ten days ago in Ciudad Acuña, in Coahuila (Mexico). After crossing almost an entire continent, they crossed the border illegally into the United States. The migrants were mostly Haitians who escaped political and economic instability in their country years ago. Everyone asks themselves a question they take for granted: “If my country were okay, why would I come here?”
The Joe Biden government held them back and began the diplomatic struggle with the Mexican government for control of arrivals from the south, which this year were a record. On one side of the border, they threatened to deport them and, on the other, to take them to Tapachula, a retaining wall they crossed when entering Mexico through Guatemala. They endured confused and exhausted. The children—there were hundreds— coughed and their breasts vibrated like a drum. They propped themselves up where they tried to dry their wet clothes. The adults packed everything into bags in case they had to run. These are some of the faces of the latest border emergency.
Alexander Lundi’s Letters
Alexander Lundi plays football on a field a few meters from the cardboard he has been sleeping on for the past few days. There are 16 inside the football field, and beside it there is an equally full field. They need to be distracted. Not thinking about how to get to the other side, or what would happen if they tried or if they waited a few more days. Alexander left Haiti at age seven and lived in Chile until two months ago without a permanent residency document. He sold his car, quit his job at the fire department and crossed the continent through 11 countries, by bus or on foot.
His mother raised Alexander and his four brothers alone. She supported him on the journey—because she supports him in everything—and there are times when he misses her. “If she finds out they’re deporting me, she’ll kill herself,” he says in fast-paced Spanish. She suggested that he return to the Mexican side when the Democratic government began sending migrants to Haiti. “What will I do there if I don’t have a family. Pure delinquency, pure bad thing? “, reflects. American agents trying to catch Haitians like him on horses gave him another reason to cross the river again. But he decided to back off when he saw a woman giving birth at four in the morning on a dirty cardboard: “She was in labor and was not helped by a doctor.”
When immigration agents entered the camp on the Mexican side on Thursday, their eyes opened, alert, and stayed that way all day. They offered him a house, food, shelter and assistance in Tapachula, 2,200 kilometers away. Accepted at the time. Although I know it won’t be as promised, because he was already there and saw the city collapse. “I want to live life like every human being”, he says. Aged 23 and single, he is in doubt and thinks he can lose out if he returns to the United States.
Sonia Jeudy sings to God
The music coming out of the cars of a Christian association gives some reason to dance. The song recounts a passage from the Bible when Moses opens the Red Sea for the inhabitants of Israel to pass through. Sonia Jeudy, 29, sings, rocks herself with her son in her arms and cries. Maybe you’re hoping someone will open the way for you too. Your sister crossed the same border five months ago and is now in California. But this time, the authorities closed the way for thousands of migrants. “Because we are black”, believes Sonia.
The woman combs her son and doesn’t let her guard down. Screams if anyone gets a hand on your stuff. He runs to get cardboard to lie down on the floor, where he sleeps outdoors. One of the cardboards, from a decoration house, announces a “house in harmony”. Sonia’s body aches, as does the center of her chest. She did not want to make this trip, according to her account, but she followed her husband, as the Bible says. Now she breastfeeds her baby. The next night, he’ll jump into the river when the authorities have entered the camp and cut the rope connecting the two ends.
“They yell at us, they swear at us”
A T-shirt covers Wilson Joseph’s head and only part of his oval face is visible. For days the national and international press has been recording what happens at the camp and Wilson does not want to be recognized on television. That’s why it also gives a false name. No one knows that he, his wife, and his daughter are there, sleeping in a tent filled with dry earth. That they are eating what they are given, that there are no toilets, that the temperature exceeds 35 degrees. He worked in Chile at a paint factory; cooked roasted with lemon and salt. Now wait to charge your phone’s battery in a socket that charges as many cables as you connect.
Haiti is a two-hour plane ride from Miami, but Wilson hasn’t lived there in years. In this country, there is no one else. He wants to go to the United States, where he has nine cousins, but left the camp on the North American side after a few days: “They yell at us, they curse us, they give us bread and a bottle of water for the whole day. when they release the water [de uma barragem], the river runs strong“. On the Mexican side, the raids have started and not many people go out to buy food in the city anymore. A man who was sleeping in the tent next door was arrested while fetching milk for his daughter and is now in Tabasco without her. So Wilson doesn’t move, although the camp has begun to empty.
Clarita Jones’ smile
Clarita Jones has a big, wide-lipped smile, which disappears when she starts to tell her story. She lived in Chile without documentation and is now with her husband almost 100 meters from the Rio Bravo. He started traveling in July and, three months later, he doesn’t forget the Darien jungle, which separates Colombia from Panama. There, he knew that if he found a closed tent, it meant that there were dead inside: two, five, four… He also remembers a woman with a broken arm climbing a slope with a child: “The son fell. She had to go away and leave him.”
She is a tall, stout woman with small eyes and close-fitting hair. You haven’t seen your kids in seven years. They live in the Dominican Republic and are unaware that she is illegally trying to enter the United States. “In case something happens to me,” he explains. From what I earned working, 200 dollars, I sent 150 a month. If I had to go hungry, I would. In Haiti, only their parents lived. The 2010 earthquake brought down their home and Clarita was unable to bury them. Last August’s earthquake left her homeless again in that country. She describes the lost second house as beautiful, big, pink and white, with a roof. Finally, why would she return to Haiti, she asks herself: “They went into the president’s house and killed him. There is no security for a president. It is us? And my children?”.
Your voice is exhausted. The only memories he had of that house were taken by agents who stole his cell phone in Mexico. Maybe that’s why I’m suspicious of the authorities. When the first patrols entered the camp in Ciudad Acuña on Thursday, she crossed the Rio Bravo at dawn, water in her chest. It was dark, it was cold. In the United States, she was allowed to apply for international protection, and while this is being resolved, she has met with part of her family. Now he’s in Miami. His feature film is as big as a book, he says. But for the past few months she hasn’t had a pretty story to tell.
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