‘Why is Donald Trump so afraid of us?’

By | November 26, 2018

Bryan Mealer reports from the migrant caravan:

María Cáceres’s son Javier, who is 15, has Down’s syndrome. He’s a tall, chunky kid, with short dark hair, a missing front tooth, and eyes that are permanently crossed.

María tells me how they fled San Pedro Sula after gang members constantly harassed her family for bribes and “taxes”. When they couldn’t pay, some men burned down their house, then murdered her two brothers. María had just finished burying them when – on 12 October – the caravan formed in the center of town. Traumatized, she left her two other children with relatives and told Javier it was time to go. The two of them joined the exodus with only the clothes on their backs.

The journey has been difficult for Javier, his mother says. In addition to Down’s, he was born with hydrocephalus, a condition where excess fluid collects in the brain. He easily gets dizzy and complains of headaches. Doctors have told María that he needs surgery, but she’s never had the money. He also suffers regular seizures, yet it’s been weeks since they could afford his anticonvulsant meds.

The previous day, Javier collapsed from the heat while walking the highway, and María worries he’ll have a seizure so far from a doctor. She points to his ankles that are swollen from wearing flip-flops, and says the food donated in the camps is making him vomit. He hasn’t been eating, she tells me. “He’s very weak. When he gets tired he just sits down in the road.”

Next to them is Juan Antonio and his six-year-old daughter Lesly, who has severe cerebral palsy. Unable to walk or speak, she’s bound to a stroller that’s too small and showing wear. Her big brown eyes slowly across the room, monitoring the action.

Juan is an aberration in the caravan – a single father traveling with so many women. A soft-spoken man, he hails from the mountains of western Honduras, where he worked in the coffee fields until the crops kept failing and forced his family to the city. In Ocotepeque, he found work as a security guard, but it paid little, and the streets where they lived were ruled by gangs and thieves. “One night they found us,” he says. “When I was at work, a man broke into my apartment and raped my wife.”

Lesly had sat in the room and witnessed the whole thing. For days his wife stayed home and cried. The rapist was a notorious gang member, and Juan knew that he would die trying to avenge her. Instead he called the police, who did nothing. When the man discovered Juan had snitched, there was no choice but to leave – but there was Lesly, who was all but paralyzed since she was two.

He’d recently gotten custody of the girl from her mother, his first wife, after he discovered she wasn’t being cared for properly. So along with his new wife and their one-year old baby, they latched on to the caravan. Lesly didn’t have a wheelchair or even a stroller, so Juan hoisted the long-legged girl in his arms and started walking.

When they reached Mexico several days later, his wife turned around and took their baby home. “It was too difficult for her,” he says. “The lack of food, sleeping on the ground. She went back to her family.” Now it was just him, Lesly, and Juan’s brother who’d joined them. They were trying to join their sister who lives in the United States, yet Juan isn’t sure where. He says this somewhat embarrassed – an admission I’d find common among asylum seekers.

Lesly sits in a stroller that someone had since donated, one of her feet scabbed from getting caught in the wheel. Just then, some kids set off some fireworks outside to celebrate the Día de los Muertos. The explosions send her into spasms. She arches her back and straightens her legs, then opens her mouth and emits a silent scream.

“Loud noises scare her,” Juan says, stroking her hair to calm her.

I look at this group, so fragile and helpless, and think how on Earth are they ever going to make it? [Continue reading…]

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