In December, Nations visited the migrant caravan camps in Tijuana. Our heart in telling the stories of migrants is not to offer political solutions, but to point to God’s kingdom and the Gospel hope in the midst of crisis. May we see the situation on the border as an opportunity for connection and compassion rather than fear and division, and may we look for Divine Image in the faces of one another.
Julia traveled from Honduras to Tijuana with her young son and his father. Josue is two and showed us his new toy: a plastic motorcycle. His dad was off working in Tijuana to earn some money so that he could buy Josue food. Though the camps provide meals, Julia told us that Josue doesn’t like them and requests other things to eat. His favorite food is corn flakes with milk.
“The journey north was heavy. We were walking under the sun and the pavement was so hot. My son’s skin started peeling from sunburn. I wasn’t ever afraid that anyone would do something to us. But I felt fear when we rode on the trucks, that the children could fall off. Sometimes we would have to jump on and off trucks.
I’m 21 years old and I only went to primary school because my parents didn’t have money. I lived in a village where we planted and we were farmers. We planted beans and corn. There wasn’t even electricity in the buildings. We left to give a better life to our son, and to study. I want to study medicine in the United States. I also like trades like sewing. I want to have a trade, to do something in life. And I want my son to have a good career. Josue keeps telling me that he is going to the United States, and that he wants to be a policeman.”
Andres is 24. He graduated from college, something he says not many people in his community did, and worked for two years in a hardware store. He liked the work and lived with his mom, but left Honduras because gangs threatened to kill him. He showed us an online news report of a murder in his hometown; the victim was his friend. Andres was with his friend when the shooting began and hid under a car to avoid detection. He plans to live with his sister and brother-in-law in Houston.
“My story is this: I came here because the gangs were after me, truly after me personally, because I witnessed a massacre. I happened to be there at the wrong time and I saw everything; I saw who did it. And because of that they’re after me.
Ultimately I just want to be safe. I want to know that I’m not running for my life and that nothing is going to happen to me. I know that, at least in the United States, I’ll be safer, something that’s not true in Honduras. I want to have a family. And to be safe—that’s most important.
What I’m going to do is cross the border. Those are my plans, nothing more. If it turns out that I have to wait the whole time for my number to be called, then I’ll do it. But, in the meantime, I’m going to try to get over the wall. The number is the last option.
Do I have hope? Yes. I have hope because I’m still alive. I’m still here.”
We met Albertina sitting on a stool outside her tent. Her mother’s sister lives in Houston, but Albertina doesn’t have much hope that her aunt will hold immigration officials accountable to processing her case. She says her aunt has been a U.S. citizen for years and looks at Albertina differently.
“I left Honduras because the police almost killed my son. After they beat up my son, I followed them, so they locked me up. Then my other son told me I’d better leave because he feared they could do something bad to me. I came to Mexico and met up with the caravan.
Right now, I’m just waiting for my turn for the interview. There are 67 people ahead of me.
I’m number 1367—they told me to wait two more weeks.
During the day here I just walk and I talk to people. I walk around, that’s all. They are all good people here. But I want to go to the U.S. because I don’t have a place to live and, what am I going to do back in Honduras? Right now, my life is at risk if I go back to Honduras. Why would I go back? To get killed?”
Nelson has the bearing of a pastor. He’s a leader in the camps and spends most of his days unloading and organizing supplies and helping create order. He traveled to Tijuana with his cousins and hopes to find work in the U.S. so he can send money home to his daughter in Honduras. His goal is to find a church family in the States.
“When I met the Lord, I was a person of the world. I worked and I got paid every other week and I wasted all of my money in drinking. I smoked cigarettes, I drank every Saturday and now I thank God because He took me out of there. It’s been a year since I’ve had a drink; I don’t smoke or do any drugs. I have lost all my bad moods and I thank God for taking me out of there, where I was wandering. I keep on asking to Him to keep helping me because He is everywhere; He is faith, He is wisdom, He is understanding.
He is the only one I can trust and I know that He can help me. He is the one who gives me strength so I can continue, so I can keep living. He is the one who will open the doors for me, touch the heart and mind of every person so that I can receive the help I need. I’ve been praying that, when I get to the US, He would be the one who open the doors of a church for me to join. Because that’s the best path we can follow—there is no other one.”
Michell is the mother of a one-year-old boy. As we talked, her husband sat nearby at a makeshift stall, weaving bracelets and selling them for 20 pesos. He learned to weave from an older artisan in Honduras and practiced until he could braid the patterns without looking. Their son recently learned to walk and practiced his new skill by waddling in circles around his parents.
“We left Honduras because of lack of work; there was almost no work there. Almost everything I made went to paying for rent. The journey up here was hard. The most difficult thing was that my son kept getting sick along the walk. I got sick too, but only a cough and the flu.
I’m planning to wait until I can go across the border. I have my mom in the United States, in Maryland. Also my two little brothers. I miss my family in Honduras, and having the community of so many people we knew around. Now it’s just the three of us.”
To see more from the migrant caravan camps in Tijuana, watch this short film from our “Sights and Sounds” series.
Photos by James Galt. Interviews by Annelise Jolley.