Latin America
1:42 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

The Surge In Single Women With Children At The U.S.-Mexico Border

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 3:06 pm

The number of migrant children detained at the U.S. border has skyrocketed. At the current pace, it could hit 90,000 over the course of this year. But it's not just minor children rushing to the border. Large numbers of single women with kids are coming as well.

All along the train tracks outside the central Mexican town of Tequixquiac, groups of migrants are on the move, looking for an opportunity to hop aboard a northbound train all the way to the U.S. border.

A local resident, Adrian Rodriguez Garcia, feeds the migrants every day. It's early in the morning and he's serving hot instant coffee and sweet bread.

Carlos Javier Lopez takes a cup. He says he's 17 years old, but his baby face with a few stray chin hairs looks much younger. He left Honduras two weeks ago. A friend in the U.S. told him to come now.

"They told me they let you study there, then they let you work in the United States, and they won't deport you," he says.

Rodriguez, the local volunteer, says he hears that a lot from the increasing number of kids he's seen traveling alone through Mexico lately. He says earlier this week there was a 5-year-old traveling alone. The boy got separated from his father but kept going. The phone number of a relative in the U.S. had been sewn into the waistband of his pants.

While the number of children traveling alone has surged in recent months, officials say so has the number of single mothers with kids.

Waiting Beside The Train Tracks

Elsewhere along the tracks, we find a group of 17 migrants resting under a tree, including six kids. A 10-month-old baby rubs her eyes. Her mom says she is tired. There are three other mothers in the group, all with small children. The youngest is 5 months old, her face covered with a red rash. All the women are from Honduras.

Maria Albaringa, a 34-year-old nurse, says she can't find a job and is sick of standing on the streets, taking people's blood pressure for spare change. She's with her 14-year-old son. Her 22-year-old niece has come, too, with her 5-month-old daughter. They've heard the U.S. is letting in women and children.

"We know that the people in the U.S. are truly humane, good people, and will help us mothers," she says.

The young man next to her, Kenny Rodriguez, says he hopes the U.S. feels the same way about single fathers. He's traveling with his 3-year-old son, Ethan, who is jumping up and down on the railroad tracks.

Rodriguez says he was desperate in Honduras. His wife left him two years ago; there is no work, just criminals everywhere, and he wants a better life for his son.

Migrants Cite Gangs And Violence

The United Nations surveyed more than 400 migrants caught at the U.S. border. By far the main reason for making the migration north was to escape the gangs and violence, especially in Honduras, says Alison Sutton, UNICEF's coordinator in Mexico.

"When there is a real increase in violence, then women and children will be the ones that are fleeing because they want to protect themselves," Sutton says.

Refugee shelters throughout Mexico are inundated with small children and women. Deportations of minor children from Mexico to Central America have nearly tripled in the past three years.

A spokeswoman for the Mexican immigration service, however, says the numbers are not alarming and insists Mexico is providing humane treatment for all migrants in the country. Human rights workers dispute that claim and say there is abuse and overcrowding.

President Obama and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto agreed in a phone call Thursday that the two countries need to work together to help stem the surge of Central American children traveling to the U.S. border alone.

Maria Albaringa and her niece aren't thinking that far ahead.

They heard they'll be detained at the U.S. border with their children for a few days, but then they'll either be released with a paper ordering them to appear in immigration court or they'll have to pay a bond. They both say they are praying for the paper.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

President Obama and his Mexican counterpart agreed yesterday that the two countries need to work together to help stem the surge of children and teenagers crossing the border alone into the U.S.. That same message will be delivered by Vice President Biden when he meets today with Central American leaders in Guatemala. In recent months, the number of migrant children detained at the U.S. border has skyrocketed. Officials say as many as 90,000 are expected by year's end, but as NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, it's not just children rushing to the border. Large numbers of single women with children are coming, too.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: All along the train tracks outside the central Mexican town Tequixquiac, groups of migrants are on the move. They're looking for an opportunity to hop aboard a north bound train all the way to the U.S. border.

ADRIAN RODRIGUEZ GARCIA: (Spanish spoken).

KAHN: A local resident, Adrian Rodriguez Garcia, feeds the migrants every day. It's early in the morning, and he's serving hot instant coffee and sweet bread.

GARCIA: (Spanish spoken).

KAHN: Carlos Javier Lopez takes a cup. He says he's 17 years old, but his baby face with a few stray chin hairs looks much younger. He left Honduras two weeks ago. Friends in the U.S. told him to come now.

CARLOS JAVIER LOPEZ: (Spanish spoken).

KAHN: He says they told me they let you study there, and then they let you work and they won't deport you. Rodriguez, the local volunteer, says he's hearing that a lot from the increasing number of kids he's seen traveling alone through Mexico lately. He said earlier this week there was a 5-year-old traveling alone. The boy got separated from his dad but kept going. He had the phone number of a relative in the U.S. sewed into the waistband of his pants.

While the number of children traveling alone has surged in recent months, officials say so has the number of single mothers with kids. Further down the tracks, there's a group of 17 migrants resting under a tree, and there are six kids. A 10-month-old baby rubs her eyes. Her mom says she's tired. There are three other mothers in the group, all with small children. The youngest is 5 months old. Her face is covered with a red rash. All the women are from Honduras.

MARIA ALBARINGA: (Spanish spoken).

KAHN: Maria Albaringa is 34 and a nurse but says she can't find a job and is sick of standing on the street taking people's blood pressure for spare change. She's with her 14-year-old son. Her 22-year-old niece has come, too, with her 5-month-old daughter. They've heard the U.S. is letting in women and children.

ALBARINGA: (Spanish spoken).

KAHN: She says we know that the people in the U.S. are truly humane, good people and will help us mothers. The young man next door, Kenny Rodriguez, says the U.S. feels the same way about single fathers. He's traveling with his 3-year-old son Ethan, who's jumping up and down on the railroad tracks.

KENNY RODRIGUEZ: (Spanish spoken).

KAHN: Rodriguez says he was desperate in Honduras. His wife left him two years ago. There's no work, just criminals everywhere, and he wants a better life for his son. The United Nations surveyed more than 400 migrants caught at the U.S. border. By far, the main reason given for making the migration north was to escape the gangs and violence, especially in Honduras, says Alison Sutton, UNICEF's coordinator in Mexico.

ALISON SUTTON: When there's a real increase in violence, then women and children will be the ones who are fleeing because they want to protect themselves.

KAHN: Refugees shelters throughout Mexico are inundated with small children and women. Deportation of minor children from Mexico to Central America have nearly tripled in the past three years. A spokeswoman for the Mexican Immigration Services, however, says the numbers are not alarming and insists Mexico is providing humane treatment for all migrants in the country. Human rights workers dispute that claim and say there is abuse and overcrowding. Today in Guatemala, Vice President Biden will stress that children coming now to the U.S. are not eligible for future immigration relief. Maria Albaringa and her niece aren't thinking that far ahead.

ALBARINGA: (Spanish spoken).

KAHN: They heard they'll be detained at the U.S. border with their children for a few days. But then they'll either be released with a paper ordering them to appear in immigration court, or they'll have to pay a bond. They both say they are praying for the paper. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Tequixquiac Mexico.

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.