América Yemali had been on the road about a month when she arrived in Mexico City's Palillo Stadium, where about 7,000 migrants stopped for a few days in early November. She fled her life of cooking and selling empanadas on the street in her native Honduras because a gang leader wanted her for a girlfriend, and she knew what that could mean. She told him she was married—a lie. "He said, 'I know where you live; you have no one,'" América says. "'Are you going to give me your number nicely or do I have to come to your house?'" She heard about the caravan on television and made up her mind on the spot. She left her two daughters in the care of their grandmother, and her hope is to bring them to live with her, away from the constant violence she has seen and experienced. In 2008, she was kidnapped as she returned from delivering lunch to her father. Armed men jumped out of a truck, forced her in, then drove to her house to show the family they had her. Her brother tailed them in the taxi he drove for a living, but was killed in a shootout. "I know he watches over me from Heaven, but I wish he were taking care of me here," she said. "If he were still alive I would not be in this caravan."
Antonio owned a recycling business in his native Olancho district in Honduras that was profitable until gangsters started demanding rent. Just before the caravan began, he tried to reach the United States with three other family members. They got as far as Celaya, Mexico, before they were returned. As soon as he got home, his sons told him they were leaving with the caravan, and Antonio followed to watch over them. Throughout the trip, he has acted as a scout, moving ahead to check out the situation and save a space for them. Along the way, he became a father figure to other children from other families. Two mothers traveling alone banded with him for the protection they could find in numbers. When these children arrived with their mothers at La Corregidora Stadium in Querétaro, north of Mexico City, they ran to hug him. "I was once a child and had the protection of a father," he says. "Now, these children need the protection of a father."
María, 23, was preparing to camp out with her extended family near a highway toll station on the road to Queretaro when she took time out to talk about her life in the 3 de Mayo neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.When she was younger, her mother had managed to build a small wooden house for the family on a borrowed lot. Eight years ago, gangsters broke in and cleared it out, taking everything. Six years later, they finally took charge of the house, turning the family out on the street at gunpoint. "We were left with nothing," she said. A neighbor rented out one room for the entire family, but they couldn't escape the daily violence and shootings of the neighborhood. "At 5 p.m everyone was closing their doors," she said. "No one could be on the streets because of the shootings." María said that up to now, they hadn't had the money to pay for a coyote. So when the caravan came together, "we jumped at it," she said. "It's more secure to go in a group than to go alone or to pay money that we don't have."
As migrants arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border, they face weeks, maybe months of waiting to present their cases before an official at the border. In the meantime, the Trump administration intensifies its attacks to try to repel them, mounting an influence campaign with the Mexican government and the U.S. public to make these men, women, and children look like criminals. This impasse is turning into a humanitarian crisis we cannot ignore. Walls and hate will not solve this problem. Political will and love for suffering human beings will help. These families need refuge, not abuse. CHIRLA is coordinating with other groups to provide legal help they desperately need, and channeling donations and supplies to organizations providing shelter, food and water. We encourage you to donate to one of these efforts.