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Story Publication logo August 8, 2023

Crossing the Border With Children


This project explores the influence of violence on Latin American migration to the U.S. and the...


Cristian, 8, and Isabela, 5, play atop cardboard boxes on a street near Sacred Heart Catholic Church and Shelter in El Paso, Texas. Image by Madison Powers. United States, 2023.

The journey from Latin America to the United States—riddled with danger—is only complicated by the addition of children. María José recounts her story of traveling with a family to El Paso, Texas.

María José sits on a curb in the shade outside of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in El Paso, Texas, as her 8-year-old son, Cristian, plays with his 5-year-old cousin, Isabela, atop discarded boxes.

María, 27, traveled with her sister and husband, who she said was deported to Mexico upon entry to the U.S.

“He came in with me—this was to surrender—but they expelled him,” María said. “He is not in the lucky group, because some entered and another was returned.”

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María said her husband will apply for another appointment to enter the U.S., but she is uncertain how long she will stay in El Paso before traveling to Pennsylvania, where her brother-in-law lives.

“Hopefully it does not take long,” she said. “ I am here waiting for him.”

María said she is weary from the journey—especially with two children.

“I tire from the hustle,” she said. “The children never understand it all, but they are entertained here.”

María José crosses Fr. Rahm Street outside Sacred Heart Shelter with her son and niece in El Paso, Texas. Image by Jay Cazares. United States, 2023.

María said she worries she will not be able to stay long in El Paso, but mostly for the fate of her husband.

“My mind always goes to this,” María said. “I am here alone and I don’t know if he will be with us again. For that, of course, there is fear.”

María’s husband is just one of 2.8 million migrants who have been expelled as a result of the expulsion of Title 42 as of May 25, 2023—a day after I interviewed María. Along with nearly every person I interviewed, María expressed her distress over the policy changes implemented in late May across the U.S.-Mexico border.

María entered the U.S. under Title 8, a decades-old immigration policy that bans deported migrants from re-entering the U.S. for five years under threat of criminal charges or jail time.

The recent policy changes also require migrants to demonstrate an application for and denial of asylum in a third country (outside of their home country and the U.S.), raising the threshold for application in the U.S.

I was left with their weariness after speaking with María and her son after such a long journey—especially with children.

Her experience mirrors thousands of others who trek through South and Central America to reach the U.S. with no guarantee of entry, but the hope of safety.

I am grateful to María and the many others who shared stories of some of their most difficult days, and I hope their plights do not go unnoticed.


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