It’s been more than four years since hundreds of thousands of Central American migrants poured into Mexico and the United States, seeking refuge in the United States and, later, continuing on to Canada.
The situation has so far been reversed: President Trump has begun sending more than 1,000 U.S. troops, and an Obama-era program that has allowed so-called Dreamers to stay in the U.S. and work illegally has been blocked by a judge.
“A whole new process has started: It’s shocking, awful, terrible,” said Maria Cassandra Meza, a 25-year-old who met up with family and friends at a shelter in eastern San Antonio and is now the second one to go on her way to Canada.
She’s been in the U.S. since she was 16 but says she’s tired of living on people’s mercy after working for nearly a decade at a local Dollar General store.
“You work for days and nights, cleaning shelves, making candy, selling ice cream,” she said. “I have a six-year-old son, and I’m tired. I want to go to the airport to start my new life and start a new life for him.”
Her journey, like that of hundreds of thousands of others who came to the United States in the past five years, is still in its early stages, with no sign of stopping.
Most of the people who leave Central America on buses with groups of others follow the same journey. They pass through Mexico, and end up in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where they often seek asylum. For now, it looks like their trek is moving on without them.
The number of migrants leaving Central America has dropped considerably since 2015, when they tried to pass through Mexico with the help of traffickers.
Despite this, the number of people registering with the U.S. Border Patrol has continued to rise in recent months, from 35,000 in 2017 to 55,000 in January 2018.
The reasons people give for leaving their countries are varied, from growing violence to family strife to searching for a better life in a more developed country.
“The first priority is to save yourself and your family,” said Maria Almiran Muñoz, 31, who left her family in Honduras, and now stands to be reunited with them in Sweden. “We chose to stay because we knew we were going to die back there,” she said.
Daniel Martinez-Samper, the founder of El Papindo — a shelter in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, that is helping several of those who have returned to Honduras — compares the situation in Honduras to “back in the Middle Ages.”
According to figures from the country’s Interior Ministry, over 35,000 Hondurans went to the United States between Jan. 1, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2017.
Another 2,600 went to Mexico.
According to data from the Mexican government, from August 2016 to August 2017, there were 3,357 Hondurans who had tried to enter Mexico illegally, while 3,295 crossed back into Honduras.
The figures do not give the number of people deported from the United States, as the governments of both countries don’t share that information. In any case, hundreds of those deported have been turned back to Honduras, which sent 27,839 people back from the United States last year.
The government of the United States knows about the situation in Honduras, said Dan Quale, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“I think it’s being monitored very closely,” he said. “And as the situation evolves, we continue to work with our Mexican counterparts on this and determine if and how we can work in partnership to try to address this problem.”