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Crossing the Border

by Jennifer Avila

I am on the other side of the border that around seven thousand Hondurans are trying to cross.  I am writing about that exodus of refugees that walks and breaks through fences, that gathers together thousands on a border bridge in Guatemala or in the Suchiate river and that faces police repression when they cross and enter Mexico.  It is also possible to talk about the Migrant Caravan from within the United States, with those who succeeded in crossing the border almost alone, away from cameras and from strident threats.  From here I see other walls that face the refugees who succeeded in arriving when migration was not a river.  From here, with the stories of those who went ahead, I can hear why the river of people is crossing Mexico now.

It is being called the “Migrant Caravan.”  This flow of people that at first, for decades, filtered through drop by drop, now has turned into a gush of water bursting through a crack in the wall of a dam.  This rush has provided evidence of the cracks in a state that failed to protect its people.


Waleska is under surveillance.  A device on her right ankle identifies her as a person who has broken the law.  She will be tied to this monitoring bracelet until her petition for asylum advances to a new stage, if it does advance.  Waleska, with her two year old child, fled Honduras for the United States in the first caravan of Honduran migrants organized in May of 2018.  That time there were 2,500 Hondurans seeking asylum.  She was detained in a prison, pleading not to be separated from her child, and now survives in a sanctuary state, where pro-migrant organizations help her during a wait that could last 600 days.

Waleska fled from a community under siege, like many in the north of Honduras, a drug corridor to the United States.  In addition, she faced the threat of the privatization of the river that runs through her community for the construction of a hydroelectric project.  Waleska resisted as part of the community organization.  She was put in prison for protesting and was afraid when the threats began to grow in force and an activist of her organization was assassinated during the post-electoral crisis in January of this year.  The case of the assassination still has not been solved.

In Honduras around 100 concessions for the production of hydroelectric energy have been approved, despite the resistance of local populations.  After the assassination of the environmental activist Berta Cáceres in March of 2016, Honduras was catalogued by the British non-governmental organization Global Witness as a dangerous country for defenders of human rights and the environment.  The territorial concessions have generated conflicts and forced migration.

After the elections of November 2017, from which Juan Orlando Hernández emerged as reelected, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented 22 assassinations perpetrated by state security forces who shot to kill during the protests:   The illegitimacy of a president who got himself reelected despite the constitutional prohibition, in elections stained by fraud, has generated more violence and repression against the opposition, and this also has generated forced migration.

Waleska did not flee for one reason only.  She fled from the violence generated by the narcotrafficking in her community that has exterminated entire families.  From the threats for being part of the resistance defending natural resources.  She also fled from the violence that she suffers as a woman, in a poor community without opportunities, from violence at home, where she suffered attacks by her ex-husband, from poverty while having to provide alone for her seven children.

Waleska has had to fight on many fronts, so coming with the May caravan and being half prisoner, half free, is better than having stayed.


Note: This account was written thanks to a tour organized by Witness for Peace in the northwestern United States.  More details here:

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