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Salvadoran Migrant On Journeying In Caravan


The migrant caravan from Central America has grown over the past week; so has President Trump's response. He's preparing to send at least 800 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. And there are reports that the administration is considering an executive order to close the southern border to migrants and asylum-seekers. Cristian is one of them. He asked that we not use his last name for safety reasons. He's 33 years old and from El Salvador. When we reach him this past week, he had just crossed the Mexican border from Guatemala. Our intern Karina Pauletti interpreted our conversation. We ask Christian why he decided to join the caravan.

CRISTIAN: (Through interpreter) Nearly all of us who come are of limited means. We're people who are surrounded by violence. In the case of El Salvador - well, extortion, robbery, poverty. Our country is small, but there's a lot of us.

SIMON: Who were you traveling with - your family?

CRISTIAN: (Through interpreter) Actually, no. I'm coming alone. Me and other Central Americans saw that Honduras was putting together a caravan to cross Guatemala, Mexico and possibly the United States. It came up on television and the radio. Here in Mexico, you can find thousands of people who came alone as well.

SIMON: What's your goal? Do you want to seek asylum in Mexico? Do you want asylum in the United States? What would you like to do?

CRISTIAN: (Through interpreter) Our goal is to get to the United States. Now, we know very well that it's difficult with the president there. But truthfully, we're here with faith in God and with the faith that, together, we can achieve that objective. Together, we're strong.

SIMON: And what would you say to those Americans who might say, look; I feel very sorry for you, but the United States is not your country?

CRISTIAN: (Through interpreter) Look; I'll answer this explicitly. It's one thing to be born in the United States and to be given the opportunities that a country so big, so beautiful gives you and another to be born in a country like ours, where poverty is abundant. Jobs are scarce. Hospitals don't have medication. There's high crime and presidents and politicians who are thieves.

I will talk to you as a human in the Central American lands. Listen to me well. I'm a family man. I have a son, a wife. When we leave our homes, many of us leave with $5, $10. Others of us leave with nothing. We risk our lives. Practically, the majority of us have walked 15 to 20 hours, even entire days, to be able to get to the Mexican border. We go without eating, without drinking water. There are kids here - 3 to 5 years old carried by their mothers. The kids cry because they can't handle this. For us, this is a sacrifice. It's a battle. It's painful for us to cross these borders to be able to get to the United States and to be able to work there.

SIMON: As you may have heard, the U.S. government is deploying 800 more soldiers there to the border between Mexico and the United States. It doesn't sound as if the U.S. government will welcome you or give you the chance to apply for asylum. Have you thought about what you might wind up doing if that's the case?

CRISTIAN: (Through interpreter) That's a good question. Notice, us, the Salvadorians, the Hondurans, the Nicaraguans and others from other countries - we know very well the difficulties that we're going to face at the border between the United States and Mexico. Our wish is that Donald Trump recognizes that we're human beings just like him, with basic needs, work, health and a dignified life and that he can be a human, have a heart, see us as family in this beautiful world that God has given us.

SIMON: (Speaking Spanish).

CRISTIAN: (Speaking Spanish) Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.