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Walter walks out his front door and across the dirt driveway, passing the diesel fuel storage tank, to the large carport garage in the cul-de-sac about 20 yards from his front steps. The garage is filled with passenger shuttle buses and smaller taxi vans, or “combis,” as they’re often referred to in Mexico. Tucked away in the back of the garage between the buses and vans, he has a car engine propped up on the bed of a small pickup truck. He sorts through boxes of engine belts in the truck bed, looking for the one he needs.

The engine Walter is rebuilding in his spare time was removed from one of his boss’s cars that’s been sitting on the lot. Once the car is up and running, he’ll be able to use it for daily errands. This will be an enormous help for him, considering his current location on the outskirts of Tijuana, some 20 miles from the downtown area.

Walter is originally from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, where he was once able to work as a mechanic. But because of the economic crisis in his home country and throughout the region, he could no longer find work and was forced to leave his home in October 2018. He left Tegucigalpa and headed for San Pedro Sula, where hundreds of other migrants were gathering at the bus terminal before setting off in a caravan in hopes of finding a better life in the north.

Q: So you traveled in the caravan all the way from San Pedro Sula?

 

A: Yes. So the meeting point was San Pedro Sula because we knew we could all meet up there and make our way out to Santa Rosa de Copan and then toward Guatemala.

 

Q: Why did you decide to leave Honduras?

A: Well, the reason was to look for a job where I can have a better chance of being able to overcome, to push ahead. I've found a good job here right now, thank God. And well, the goal is to keep going, work hard. I intend to hold tight here for a while and settle down. If I can settle here, then I would stay here for a while.

Q: What was your experience like traveling with the caravan?

A: I am very grateful to God because I was able to help out a lot in the Exodus. 

 

We coordinated among ourselves, even though we came without a destination and without guidance. I also participated in the many conferences and assemblies.

We were able to organize ourselves, make vigilance groups, take care of each other. Because the goal was to leave as a family and arrive as one family. Always taking care of each other because we know that many people came with children and there were many elderly people.

Q: When did you arrive in Tijuana?

 

A: We left Oct. 12. I’d say, mid-November, we arrived here in Tijuana.

Q: And you were at the Benito Juárez (the temporary shelter in Tijuana that housed many of the migrants who arrived with the caravan)?

A: Yes, we were at Benito Juárez when we first arrived here in Tijuana. Well, the first place we were at was the Benito Juárez. From Benito Juárez, they moved us to Barretal.

Q: At the Barretal (the second temporary shelter for migrants that was opened after the Benito Juárez was closed), you were also really involved in organizing and helping to distribute donations and things to people there, weren’t you?

A: Yes. In fact, people had already taken a liking to me and everything. The mothers who came with the children, the senior citizens, they all knew me. They listened to me. And so we organized among ourselves there at the Barretal. I always kept working, doing security and surveillance. We even set up a bathroom and everything. We always organized well.

"Caminata del Migrante" (Migrant March), a flyer Walter created was shared on social media to announce the meeting place and time in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, for what would become the migrant caravan of October 2018 (image courtesy of Walter).

Q: How was it that you were deported from Mexico?

A: They placed a migratory alert on me. 
 

Once I fixed my immigration status here (in Tijuana), I went back down (to southern Mexico) because some people I knew were coming. They told me that they were afraid and for me to go down there so we could organize ourselves, and they can come calmly.

They got me because they had already seen me travel with the Exodus. I was on my way back from bathing in the river. We had been giving out food to people. Then, I went to bathe in the river in the evening, and on my way back, immigration officials grabbed me. 

Three agents grabbed me and put me in the perrera (dog kennel), as we call it, and they took me to Siglo 21 (a migratory detention center in Tapachula). They held me there for a week. They took my (visa) card, they took my papers, and they deported me to San Pedro Sula, back to my country.

Q: Do you think you were specifically targeted and they were there to get you?

A: Yes, they actually grabbed me first and then they grabbed another guy too. They grabbed (name withheld) and deported him too.

 

Maybe Immigration (INM) thought that we were the people who organized the caravans. There were many people who said that we financed them. Or that Venezuela financed it. That I had been paying for it. But in my case, what I did, I did from the heart. And I know that the reward will come from God. Imagine, there were people who said that they gave me $50,000 or $100,000. I think that with that money, well, I wouldn’t be here struggling.