The Reality of Crossing the Border


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Antoinette Aho, Editor-in-Chief

The Free Lancer had the chance to speak to Angelica Nieto (a pseudonym to protect her identity), an immigrant from Honduras who came to the United States at the young age of 16. Nieto graduated from Cordova High School in 2009, now she’s 28 and living in Sacramento with her husband and daughter.

With the recent news of the expansive migrant caravan from Honduras, the Free Lancer set out to speak to Nieto about her first-hand experience as an immigrant. She openly shared her heartbreaking, harrowing story.

This article will encompass the tragedies that immigrants face when coming to the U.S., as well as their reasons and objectives for entering the country and leaving their own, all from a Honduran immigrant herself.


When we left Honduras it was because of an unstable government that had no control over the people and we were trying to join my mother in the United States. Jobs were sparse, and if someone was lucky to have a job, the pay was low and unstable. Gangs were overrunning cities and citizens were continuously threatened. Hospitals had no medicine and lacked proper staffing. Children suffered from a lack of access to education. In a country like this, one cannot find peace, so my sister and I set out with others to make the over 2,200-mile painful trek across Central America into the states. The chance of us not being admitted was significant, but we knew that any situation would be better than the one we were in- our lives depended on it.

It was necessary to have someone to help you cross into the states, or even allow you into the processing. These men are called coyotes. But many of those who would offer help would leave you, trick you, and even abuse you. It took many tries to find an honest person that would help us get past certain points (you must pay to cross several of the areas) and lead us to America.

We had to pay fees to corrupt police officers to enter Guatemala on our way up to Mexico, but that portion of the trip was the easy part. The officers in Mexico were much more organized in their ability to profit from migrants. We were arrested in Mexico because they recognized that were not from there and the police saw a chance to profit from us. We had to buy our way out of jail only for them to set us up to be stopped on the bus in the next town where their connections could also try to do the same thing to us. Somehow, after several weeks of travel on buses, feigning sleep to avoid inspectors, and changing buses regularly we made it to the hardest part of the crossing- heading from Tijuana (a perilous city) into the United States.

Our group began walking from 3:00 am to 8:00 am, and after walking all night it started raining, the storm was frightful, with thunder and lightning and we had no means of shelter.

We were told to sleep underneath some boulders but the coyotes would take advantage of the women if they asked for, or accepted, something to cover with while they slept, so my sister and I had to sleep in the rain. Many women allowed for the men to do what they wanted, but my sister knew it was wrong and protected us.

On the final portion of the journey, there was no access to resources such as shelter or food. We had carried water but the weight was too demanding and I had to leave the jugs behind.

I assumed that the final portion, crossing the desert, wouldn’t be terrible, as the desert is just sand. I thought there would be nothing there. But crossing the dessert was the worst: the trees, the animals, and traveling at night (which was mandatory or else we’d be seen) was terrifying and I was so scared the whole time. You must wear all black clothing, with nothing shiny because the helicopters will see the reflection, and the police are on horses as well. After days of traveling through the desert, my feet were covered in blisters and I could only walk if I walked on my heels because my feet were so severely damaged.

We finally approached our destination but the border police were so smart and yet cruel in their methods, and we were so stupid, they will wait until we walked all the way to our destination before they stopped us. They had seen us coming from miles away, we had no idea they were watching that whole time.

After they stopped us, our group waited for a van to take us to an immigrant processing center. Due to bad national relations, the U.S. did not want Honduras immigrants to enter the states, so we had to lie about our country of origin. Saying that we were from Mexico, the group almost passed all the tests. We were able to tell the workers what the national Mexican anthem was, and even what the emblem on the flag contained, but one woman in our group was not able to do so. Being under high pressure, she dropped the lie, damaging all of us. Frightful of being taken back to Honduras, I knew I, and those who successfully passed, would have to force the lie more. So they stated that it wouldn’t be right to take them to Honduras, for they don’t know the language or people, as they are from Mexico. The girls were able to convince the workers and finally were taken to an immigrant processing center.

At the center, the workers were not friendly or compassionate. I remember one worker stealing money from a young girl, I don’t understand why the woman would take from a refugee who had so little. It wasn’t fair. Eventually, I was separated from my sister. We were taken to different care centers and I haven’t seen her since; that was eleven years ago.

Angelica’s first-hand story is heart-wrenching, but it is eye-opening. To understand the lives of immigrants, one must consume it from their own words.

After a long process, Angelica was reunited with her mother and admitted into the United States because she was a minor and her mother was here legally on asylum status so Angelica’s immigration was within her rights as an asylum seeker joining a parent. Her older sister was deported back to Honduras because she was over 18 at the time and was refused permission to join her mother and Angelica. Unlike many immigrants, Angelica was successful in leaving her impoverished country and forming a new life for herself. She states, “I know that if I were still there today, I may be dead.”

It has been 11 years since Angelica first arrived in the United States-legally and with the full knowledge and awareness of immigration control. She has since graduated high school and attended college yet she has been through three lawyers, countless court hearings, and thousands of dollars in legal fees but her case is still not resolved and her citizenship not fully confirmed despite her every effort to work with the legal system.