El Paso, Texas — Annunciation House is a Catholic shelter in the border city of El Paso where, just this week, authorities released more than 700 immigrant families fleeing countries from all over the world, mainly Central America.
It is at Annunciation House where the KENS 5 Border Team met Gladys. That is not her real name. Gladys asked not to reveal her identity out of fear it would derail her immigration case in court. The 27-year-old Honduran mother has been in the U.S. for two months after crossing the border illegally with her 11-year-old son.
“I couldn’t stay in Honduras waiting for something to happen to my son,” said Gladys in Spanish.
MS-13 gang members wanted to recruit her son or be killed.
Gladys said she knew about America’s zero tolerance policy that led to the separation of migrant families at the border. However, because of conditions in Honduras, she fled anyway.
In the same desperation, parents who can’t escape violence and poverty, send their children off alone.
“One, as a mother, seeks the best for her son. A mother has to risk it all to provide the best,” she said.
The Department of Health and Human Services has about 13,000 unaccompanied minors in their care. About 1,600 of them are held at a tent city in nearby Tornillo, with dozens more arriving every day.
Children, ranging from 12 to 17 years old, spend an average of 59 days in the tent city waiting to be placed with a willing sponsor in the United States. This task has become more complicated as a new policy mandates that sponsors must have their fingerprints taken. Some of these sponsors, said HHS, are undocumented and are choosing not to participate any longer out of fear their information will be shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Although the children at tent city and at other shelters have adequate meals and time to play, Annunciation House director Ruben Garcia believes it’s not enough.
“At least here I’m eating three times a day but even with that I don’t want to be here,” Garcia paraphrased.
It’s not an easy decision, but it’s one some families in Central America say is necessary because they know what awaits them in their country. Coming to the U.S. despite all the risks, Gladys said, is worth a shot.