60 pesos for my immigration picture. There is a woman who does it for 50, but sometimes she cuts off too much and immigration won’t take it. Then you have to pay and take it again.
5 pesos for a comb and a rubber band so I can look nice for my picture.
2 pesos to call my mom in Honduras. She’s had this phone number for 15 years. It’s the only phone number I have because the ladrones en el camino stole everything except what was in my mind. It’s hard to know when she’ll be home because she’s always working, but the señor at the pulpería doesn’t charge you unless the call goes through.
120 pesos to take the bus to immigration. That’s both ways. I go once a week so they can sign my papers. That shows I’m doing what I’m supposed to—staying out of trouble, not leaving the country, and waiting for the lawyers down at Derechos Humanos to finish my papers. They don’t charge me anything at Derechos Humanos. They just check and make sure I go to immigration. They say come to the office right after you get back from immigration so we can make copies to put in your folder—that way you don’t get deported.
400 pesos for those clothes in the window. 200 for the shirt. It’s nice—it has a collar and has to be ironed. 200 more for the pants. The shoes and belt are extra—if you want to look really fancy. That’s how I used to dress in Honduras. Someday, I’ll dress like that again, but for now I have to wear what people give me. I didn’t study, but I know it’s important to look respectable. Some people say I have a mala cara, but I say I can’t change my face. In Honduras it’s hard because if you dress like I dress now, they say you are a gangster, but if you dress with respect they say that’s too fancy and you’re asking to get shot. It’s the same either way though—you get cut no matter what.
20 pesos a day. That’s what I get paid in Mexico. They know you need money. They know you can’t say no. Unload this fruit. Dig these ditches. Carry that water. Pick those vegetables. Pour that concrete. Mop that floor. They give you rotten food and water that’s for the cows. They give you a place to sleep on the floor with 20 other people. That’s where the rest of your pay goes they say. And if you say you want more they say they’ll call immigration. So you move on. Not 1 time. Not 2 times. But 1,000 times.
30 pesos for hair cream. The small bottle. It’s made for morenos like me so my hair lays down smooth and doesn’t give me a mala cara. I’ll buy it when I can sell more wallets and flowers, but I’ll have to find more chip bags and soda cans to make them first. There’s lots in the trash, but you have to get them to match. 2 more Ruffles. 1 more Doritos. 2 more Arizona teas—the mango flavored, not the green. The green is okay, but I already have 6 of those. They don’t sell. If I can buy hair cream I won’t have to wear this hat all the time or put my hair in a ponytail like I did for the immigration picture. You like it? It says New York. It was in the donations. It looks like the one my mom gave me the last time I left Honduras.
I’ve been deported 10 times. 8 times from Mexico. 2 times from the US. When they send me back I come right back up. I’m a dead man if the maras see me in the streets. I got my first death threat when I turned 16. That was the first time I left Honduras. Now, I’m 33. I’ve been on the road more than half my life—17 years. Last time I got deported from the US, I was in Detention for 9 months. I asked for asylum, but I was denied. They said you needed 3 proofs and I only had 2. I thought I had a lot more than that, but that’s what the judge told me. But when they deport you from the US you get to ride a plane. 5 hours and you’re back in Tegus. In Mexico, they put you on a bus and it takes 2 days and each day they give you 1 sandwich.
100 million dollars. I heard in the US that for just 1 dollar you can win all that money. I don’t know, I never was in the real US just in Detention. If it’s true, I’m sorry I never got to buy a ticket.
I didn’t go to school, but I was always counting when I was selling. Which was always. At home, in the mercado, and in the street my father made me count. I can’t remember how to write the zeta or which words are spelled with b grande or v pequeña, but I know 5 mangoes 3 times makes 15. I use my hands. Gracias a Dios I still have all my fingers.
There is a refugee crisis building in Mexico. The northern triangle of Central America (El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala) is experiencing extreme gang violence that has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. Traveling over land through Mexico, traditionally these migrants have sought refugee status in the United States; however, given the heightened anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric and policies of the Trump administration and the high rate of asylum denials, more Central Americans are electing to stay in Mexico and apply for refugee status there. Many asylum seekers in Mexico had applied for refugee status previously in the United States, but were denied and deported back to their home countries. They fled again at the first opportunity. Some asylum seekers have been murdered upon deportation to their home countries. UNHCR and Mexico’s CNDH (National Commission on Human Rights) are working with service providers, including a network of more than fifty emergency shelters located throughout Mexico, to protect the rights of Central Americans and assist them with their asylum cases. COMAR, Mexico’s refugee agency, projects that more than 22,000 people could be applying for refugee status in 2017, up from 3,400 in 2015.
This piece is nonfiction taken from conversations I had with a particular Honduran asylum-seeker I was working with at a migrant shelter in Mexico. I have omitted identifying information to protect him. This work is essentially a gathering of his words in translation.