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A day in the life of seven migrants crossing Mexico



From the southern border with Guatemala to the northern border with the United States, AFP spent 24 hours traveling with migrants who are crossing Mexico to chase their American dreams.

Here are seven of their stories.

Andres Sanchez, 18

“Being a migrant means being an outcast,” says Sanchez, a day after being deported from the US for the second time.


A native of Puebla, in central Mexico, he tried to cross the border two months ago with a fake tourist visa he bought from a smuggler for $3,500.

AFP / GUILLERMO ARIAS An aerial view of the United States (L) – Mexico (R) border fence extending into the Pacific ocean at Playas de Tijuana, Mexico 

But the document was registered as stolen, and US authorities detained and deported him.

Now, carrying nothing but a Bible and a plastic wallet, he is contemplating his next move at a migrant shelter in the border city of Ciudad Juarez.

The Americans warned him he would face six months in prison if he tried to enter the country illegally again.

Having just spent two months in detention, that is giving him second thoughts.


“It’s really cold in prison. You can barely sleep,” he says.

Going back home does not sound appealing, either. But neither does his current state of limbo on the border.

“It’s hard to be far from your family,” he says.


Micaela Perez, 24

AFP / GUILLERMO ARIAS Asylum seekers gather at El Chaparral port of entry in Tijuana, Mexico as they seek an appointment to present their asylum request to US authorities

Crossing illegally into the United States is risky business, says Perez, who nearly died trying.


“The most horrible part is crossing the desert. I ran out of food and water, so I had to turn myself in,” she says, a day after being deported for the third time.

She paid $1,500 to a human trafficker to smuggle her in. But the ordeal left her with nothing, not even the clothes on her back. The ones she is wearing now were given to her at a migrant shelter in Ciudad Juarez.

A native of Mexico’s poorest state, Chiapas, in the south, she is desperately trying to reunite with her husband, who snuck into the US two years ago.


She spent six days in detention before being deported. US authorities warned her she would face 20 years the next time.

Angel Saravia, 61

“We have to emigrate to get ahead,” says Saravia, a life-long border-jumper.

AFP / Pedro PARDO Migrants and residents use a makeshift raft to cross the Suchiate River, which formsl the natural border between Mexico and Guatemala

“We suffer for it, but we have to take the risk.”


However, after his last deportation six years ago, Saravia decided he had had enough of being treated as an “illegal alien.”

Today, he lives in a remote cabin in the Matadero canyon, near the border that separates Tijuana, Mexico from San Diego.

“This is a kind of sanctuary. I live far away from everyone, from people who think deported migrants are criminals. Here, nobody points their finger at me. People just leave me alone.”

Sandra Hernandez, 28


Hernandez left two children behind in her native Honduras to make her way north with her youngest daughter, four-year-old Danaya.

They have traveled most of the way by hopping the freight train known as “The Beast.”

A domestic worker in Honduras, Hernandez says her pay was too meager to support her family.

“It’s hard to leave your children behind,” she says.

When she calls them on the phone, she cries. They are six and nine years old.


Pausing at a migrant shelter in Guadalupe, in eastern Mexico, she is planning to hit the road again in three days’ time.

But she fears being separated from her daughter at the US border.

David Ramirez, 23

Ramirez has traveled by truck, boat and train to make it from Honduras to this shelter in Guadalupe.


He has already been deported from the United States twice, but is determined to try again, even though he has been targeted by the criminal gangs that attack and rob migrants.

At the shelter, he is helping prepare bags of food to give to migrants riding “The Beast.”

“It makes me really happy to hand out food to them. But also really sad,” he says.

Soon he plans to join them again, trying to reach his aunt’s home in Michigan.


Raquel Padilla, 27

AFP / ULISES RUIZ Raquel Padilla, a 27 year old Honduran migrant who is four months pregnant, poses at the FM4 Paso Libre shelter for people heading north to the US

“Every Central American dreams of migrating,” says Padilla.

Still, she misses the son she left behind in her native Honduras.

Four months pregnant, she has paused at a migrant refuge in Guadalajara, in western Mexico, before continuing her journey.


Asked what her most prized possession is, she smiles.

“The baby in my belly.”

Graciela, 16

AFP / GUILLERMO ARIAS Graciela plays with her five-month-old son Cesar in the recreation room at the Casas YMCA shelter for migrant minors in Tijuana, Mexico 

Graciela started her journey by giving birth to a baby boy, Cesar, in a bathroom near the Mexican-Guatemalan border.

Now she is at a migrant shelter in Tijuana, on the US-Mexican border, waiting for Mexican authorities to issue him a birth certificate.

She wants to obtain Mexican papers, then seek asylum in the United States.

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