Turmoil, Poverty in Central America Adding to Border Rush

We caught up with a man who traveled 2,000 miles to the U.S. as a 15-year-old to escape hunger and violence in Honduras.

Video Transcript

ELVIS GARCIA CALLEJAS: It took me one month to travel from Honduras to the US. Most of the time, I spent that in Mexico on top of a cargo train, begging people for food.

BEN SCHAMISSO: When he was only 15, Elvis Garcia Callejas traveled 2,000 miles to the US to flee poverty and gang violence in Honduras. He knew the trip north would be extremely dangerous, but says staying home was not an option.

ELVIS GARCIA CALLEJAS: My father was an alcoholic and he-- he was never present in my life. My mom would make about $5 a day. And with that money, she had to support her five boys.

BEN SCHAMISSO: Garcia Callejas's American dream is shared by many Central Americans.

ELVIS GARCIA CALLEJAS: Since I was a kid, I always heard of the stories of the United States being a safer country.

BEN SCHAMISSO: And the trend has only accelerated in recent months. Migrants from Mexico and Central America, including unaccompanied minors, are crossing the US border in record numbers.

THERESA CARDINAL BROWN: They had two hurricanes back to back. They've suffered immensely economically because of COVID. And that was on top of situations that were already rather desperate.

BEN SCHAMISSO: Many Republicans say President Biden's border policies are weak and igniting a crisis at the border. The Biden administration reversed Trump's policies, such as border expulsions of unaccompanied minors and the remaining Mexico program which required migrants to wait outside the country for their asylum hearings. The reversals help explain the increasing crossings, but experts say that's only part of the story.

THERESA CARDINAL BROWN: It's sort of expected if you're from certain areas and you reach a certain age, then you're supposed to go north and provide for your family. And that's-- that's a cultural issue.

BEN SCHAMISSO: The Biden administration wants to invest in Central America to tackle root causes of migration-- poverty, violence and corruption. But that's a long term investment that may not pay off for years. In the meantime, the White House can expand capacities at the border and create other legal avenues and asylum destinations for migrants. As for Garcia Callejas, he won his case and is now a US citizen.

ELVIS GARCIA CALLEJAS: I love the United States. I'm proud to be an American citizen.

BEN SCHAMISSO: At 31, he has also achieved his dream of lifting his Honduran family out of poverty, preventing them from risking their own lives migrating to the US. Ben Schamisso, so Newsy.