STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Immigrants describe fear, violence

CNN's Nick Valencia is on the US-Mexico border and spoke to an apprehended mother about what drove her to cross the border with her son.

Posted: Jun 29, 2018 12:20 PM
Updated: Jun 29, 2018 12:35 PM

The woman says she had a "normal' life in Honduras' capitol -- a home, a job and a son she'd do anything to protect.

The threat of gangs was always present, she said: in the past year, three boys from her neighborhood were killed for refusing to join MS-13. Then the violence came into her home and threatened to take her son, she said, leaving her no choice but to flee to the United States.

Less than a week later, they were captured on the banks of the Rio Grande by an agent with US Customs and Border Protection.

CNN was with a CBP agent when he encountered the mother and her son with four other migrants -- a man and his three-year-old son and two unaccompanied minors. Per CBP's order, CNN is not naming the migrants.

They are among many families coming across the border each day, seemingly unaware of the political furor over their fate as they leave their homes fearing for their lives. Their clean clothes and relatively fresh appearance suggest they intended to cross legally and may not have been trying to evade capture, agent Robert Rodriguez said.

But their future remains unclear amid the fluid conditions created by the administration's zero tolerance approach to prosecuting illegal border entry. While the Justice Department will continue to prosecute adults in federal court who cross the border illegally, President Donald Trump's executive order asks that families be housed together "where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources."

The CBP agent followed a raft upstream carrying the group to a landing. He encountered them in a thicket of tall grass and trees, and told them he would bring them to a central processing center in McAllen, Texas. After he brought them to a vehicle, he gave them water and asked several questions to ensure they were OK.

Before they began the next part of their journey, they shared some details of the life-or-death choices that brought them to this point.

'I would never let my son be captured'

Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, originated decades ago among Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles, using violent crime to intimidate rival gangs, law enforcement and the public. The gang has expanded its network through recruitment and migration in the United States and Central America, often targeting for recruitment boys the same as this woman's son.

The woman and her son sit in the back of the car on a dusty road as she relays her account, both of them wearing black and white soccer jerseys.

Members of MS-13 routinely prowl the Tegucigalpa neighborhood where they lived, she says. The gang uses them as "halcones," or look-outs, she said. They give them guns and post them around their territory, grooming them to become gang members, she said.

On Saturday, gang members came to her home with an ultimatum, she said, tears rolling down her face: Give up her son to them or they would both be killed.

They fled the next morning, she said. Her son is an American citizen, born in Dallas, Texas, and she hoped they would find safety, along with medical care for an untreated tumor in his nose.

Her son starts to cry as he hears her story. He didn't want to leave Honduras, he says, and he's sorry for putting them in this position.

She says she had no idea that, until recently, families were being separated at the border. But she still would have come even if she knew, she said. It was her son's wish that they leave.

"For me, it was very difficult. I had a normal life," she said. "Of course, I would never let my son be captured."

A life-or-death choice

The man in the group describes equally dire circumstances. His three-year-old son squirms next to him as he shares his story.

He's says he's here from Honduras because he's a victim of extortion. Strangers would show up to his house and ask for money, threatening to kill him and his sons, he said. He told police but they did nothing, leaving him wondering if they were possibly involved, he said.

He had to leave and seek asylum at the border, he said. He left behind a one-year-old in a place where he hopes he'll be safe. The journey with a child was difficult, he said, with many sleepless nights.

He also says he did not know about the family separation policy when he left. But he said he would prefer, "a million times" over, a few days struggling in the United States than one more in Honduras under the threat of death.

What does he think of people who might say he doesn't belong in the United States? Those who think he's a criminal who should be detained and deported?

"Those people are people who maybe haven't lived what one (like me) lives through."

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1967248

Reported Deaths: 51258
CountyCasesDeaths
Kings2600639889
Queens2597329511
Suffolk1908893300
Nassau1750233097
Bronx1727466359
New York1300554297
Westchester1243172235
Erie799591683
Richmond696201739
Monroe597381032
Orange45423782
Rockland45245940
Onondaga35490659
Dutchess27510432
Albany23368343
Oneida21251497
Niagara17780332
Broome17129348
Saratoga14167160
Ulster12791241
Schenectady12252190
Rensselaer10495136
Putnam1005291
Chautauqua8227132
Chemung7052133
Oswego687690
Ontario674091
Steuben6192141
St. Lawrence612594
Sullivan598968
Cayuga579490
Jefferson539263
Wayne513967
Cattaraugus503780
Genesee5005121
Herkimer4868107
Clinton446532
Madison423885
Tompkins400349
Fulton398086
Livingston393658
Montgomery3817114
Columbia379999
Cortland350760
Warren333355
Tioga331658
Wyoming320451
Allegany313383
Otsego311846
Greene307774
Chenango301873
Washington280355
Orleans270283
Lewis242033
Franklin237012
Delaware211236
Seneca184656
Schoharie150315
Essex148526
Yates109226
Schuyler97713
Hamilton2982
Unassigned16592
Out of NY0216
Rome
Partly Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 36°
Binghamton
Partly Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 40°
Rome
Partly Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 36°
Rome
Partly Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 36°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve
Enter the Rock Your Body Giveaway from Alivana Aesthetics
Looking for work or looking to hire? Check out the WKTV Job Fair!