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A Mother's Story: Elena

The hardest part of having children living illegal in the US is “they can’t come back,” because of the danger of the return journey north, Elena said. “Every time [the process of immigration] is a worry” for mothers, she said.
Elena’s two sons, who have lived in the States for twelve and ten years respectively, first migrated from Mangulile to San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras. One studied and one sold food, but they were unable to find consistent work there. The lack of work, along with the high amount of delinquency and violence there, drove them to immigrate to the United States.

One of Elena’s sons, however, has now received legal permission to work in the US. Although he makes less than he used to because he has to pay more taxes, “I feel magnificent,” Elena said. “I can talk to him more, he feels safer, everything in general is better.” Traveling is easier for him now because he’s able to take an airplane. Her other son is married to an American and is working on becoming legal. One of them works in roofing and the other at a factory. Her sons send money to support their mother. “We lack a lot to live comfortably, but it’s better than it was,” she said. “The house didn’t have a floor when they left. It was smaller and part of it was wood and part made of earth.” The house is now larger and dry walled. They also sent money for a car and for the studies of family members. Although she can’t work much because of painful arthritis, she works tirelessly making and selling tortillas to make additional money for her grandchildren’s studies. She hopes to obtain a visa to visit her sons with the two children of her currently-legal son. One of them only knows him through Facebook, and their mother lives in another house in Mangulile, though she comes over every day, so Elena is their primary caretaker, and also the primary caretaker of two other of her grandchildren.

A niece she raised as a daughter has also lived in the United States for three months. She previously lived in San Pedro and had worked as a teacher in a private school, but finding a job as a teacher was too political and she had been without work for three or four years without work although “she’s really intelligent.” Living in San Pedro was dangerous for her. She was assaulted in the street three times and decided to go to the United States. She paid a coyote $6000 to guide her from San Pedro to the States, which took two months. He was a friend of Elena’s friend, and he took good care of her. Whenever they stopped along the way, she cooked in different houses with food contributed by everyone in the traveling group. She was caught by immigration and spent time in a primary detention center. Although the temperature at the facility was held at a freezing temperature, she received sufficient food and water and she could talk to someone in the US.

In her hearing, “the judge had everything in his hands, to send her back to Honduras or let her stay. But God didn’t let him send her back,” she said. She lives in Miami with a man from Mangulile. She works in quality control and “loves it there.”
In addition, Elena cares for her 16 year old nephew, who wants to go to the States in the future. “I don’t want him to go to the US, and I don’t want him to go to San Pedro. There are bad influences there,” she said. She would like him to continue his studies, and believes it’s better to study at a distance to stay away from the dangerous city. He is in high school studying Information, but doesn’t want to go to university. The majority of the youth in the community want to go to the US, according to Elena.

She believes the future will be harder than it already is for Hondurans. “It’s disorganized here,” she said. The government gives few benefits and doesn’t help single mothers. “It’s unjust, not getting anything from the government,” she said. Although her sons have sent money, she said “I can’t eat a car,” speaking of the need for more assistance from the government in daily necessities.

She wants improvements in lights, sewage, streets paved, and access to water, but “we don’t have control over these things.” In order for there to be change, “the hearts of the authorities need to change.” Inflation has made it harder to pay for things and there are no harvests in the summer. Usually women stay in Honduras to take care of children so men can work in the US. When there are no male figures in the house there is no discipline and youth are more rebellious.

In US policy, she would like more opportunities for Latinos in the US. “There’s a lot of bad people, but those who are working are helping the country and shouldn’t be deported,” she said. The journey is really dangerous as well, and because entering is so dangerous, people don’t come back to Honduras.

“My son hurt his foot in the journey, all to find a better future for his children,” she said. Her sons may return in the future, “if there’s no work there they’ll come back, but there’s no work here.”

Read Ana's story