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Features & Columns

Groups of Migrants Try to Sneak into US, Not Willing to Wait Months to Apply for Asylum

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Groups of Migrants Try to Sneak into US, Not Willing to Wait Months to Apply for Asylum

2018-12-04 18:07:491 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: U.S.-Mexico Border at the Pacific Ocean (Image source: Screenshot)


It's easy to understand desperation after traveling for nearly two whole months to reach a destination and then being denied. One small group of 30 migrants, not wanting to wait months for their asylum claims to be heard, tried sneaking into the U.S. through the Pacific Ocean but were eventually unsuccessful. 

The members of the caravan traveled along with a reporter for BuzzFeed News two hours. They were asked to leave the sports complex that had been their makeshift shelter since arriving in Tijuana to move into a new shelter that had been set up on the way out of town.


Javier Piñeda and his 10-year-old son traveled with the group. Some had no other belongings than the clothes they were wearing, but one man wrapped his cell phone in a plastic big since they were encountering the Pacific Ocean.  

Piñeda believes he has a good chance at asylum, too. He doesn't feel he can wait the months he will have to. Along with the 10-year-old, he has four other kids back home with his wife in Honduras. They need him to make money so they can eat. He doesn't think a Mexican wage would support them if he is forced to wait and work in Mexico while doing so.


Currently he and his son are two of more than 5,000 on the waiting list for asylum, and the entire caravan hasn't even arrived yet. A recent Department of Homeland Security inspector general's report found that the U.S. making migrants wait weeks to apply for asylum pushes them into entering the country illegally. 

Meanwhile, Donald Trump treats all migrants as if they are all looking to enter illegally and as if they are all criminals.


With an overcrowding situation, a flooded shelter after a recent rainstorm, and limited food and supplies, Piñeda and the others set off to try to enter the U.S. illegally. 

"I have five kids to take care of," he said. "They want me to wait until March. That's too long for me."


His brother had been killed two years ago by MS-13. His body was found by police covered in burns from melted plastic he'd been tortured with. Piñeda filed a police report, but it only led to death threats, and his family was forced to move.  

The gang caught up with him and was again issuing threats. With the caravan leaving Honduras in October, he grabbed his son and ran out the door with just $4, and that is long gone.


The group had a close call at the hill where they were hiding, waiting to cross. One man tried to cross at the bottom of the hill, and that attracted the attention of Border Patrol.  

A helicopter hovered overhead but was focused on a different group of migrants who were closer to the border fence than they were. Eventually the aircraft left.


While most of the group sat in silence, a few started talking quietly, with a woman urging them to be quiet. This led to discussions over what they should do next.  

There were scattered attempts by migrants to sneak into the U.S., but none were successful. One group of four men turned themselves into Border Patrol once they were across, two young men dug a hole under the border fence and were spotted by Border Patrol, leading them to sneak back into Mexico.


The two young men, César and Daniel, were from El Salvador where they were being pressured to join gangs. If you rejected the offer too often, it could lead to death. With news of a caravan, they decided to join.  

"My destiny is not here; my destiny is on the other side," said César, who left El Salvador without even telling his family.


The two young men, after checking out alternate spots of possible entry, eventually went back to the shelter, and Piñeda's group walked towards the beach to wait the night out while planning to go back to the stadium in the morning. 

"We always knew the path we'd take was a path of suffering," he said. "There is no undocumented person who doesn't understand that, but I believe that with God's hand we will succeed."


 Once they got closer to the ocean, Border Patrol approached the group. One of the migrants said the wait at the port of entry was too long, only to be told that's the way it is in the U.S., and it's against the law to cross without a visa. 

The group settled in for the night before their trek back in the morning. "We'll try again tomorrow," Piñeda told his son.

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