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“Miserable Journey”: Asylum-Seeking Women, Children Bused from El Paso to NYC with Little Food, Water

Web ExclusiveOctober 12, 2022
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Image Credit: Luis Chaparro / VICE World News

As Republican governors in Texas, Florida and Arizona continue to send asylum-seeking migrants to Democratic cities like here in New York, we speak with reporter Luis Chaparro, who recently rode with a convoy of migrant buses from El Paso, Texas, to New York and wrote about it in a piece for Vice headlined “'The Kids Are Starving': 40 Hours on the Road With a Migrant Bus From Texas.” Chaparro explains how “it was really a miserable journey.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we bring you Part 2 of our conversation with Luis Chaparro. He is a freelance journalist reporting on the U.S.-Mexico border. Right now he’s in El Paso.

Luis, I want to talk about the U.S.-Mexico border and about how Republican governors in Texas and Florida and Arizona are continuing to send asylum seekers to Democratic cities like, well, right here in New York. You actually followed a convoy of migrant buses leaving the Democratic city of El Paso, Texas, to New York and wrote about it in a piece for Vice headlined “'The Kids Are Starving': 40 Hours on the Road With a Migrant Bus From Texas.” Can you talk about that trip?

LUIS CHAPARRO: Definitely. So, we started reporting on this story after we started, like, looking how these buses were leaving Texas and then appearing again in New York, but we didn’t really know what was happening in the middle. So we followed this bus for over 45, 47 hours, from El Paso to New York, to find out it was really a miserable journey.

I mean, most of these migrants were coming all the way from Venezuela, and they have gone through a lot. They have gone through the Darién Gap, which is the deadliest trek, I think, from the eight countries they have to go through. And they just end up in these — well, first of all, they put them in these beautiful buses branded with the El Paso name on the side. And these buses have AC. The bathroom is properly working. And they are set into the journey with a sandwich and a bottle of water and a fruit. But this only lasts for the first 10 hours. When they arrived into Dallas, they have to switch buses to a very shady company that has buses where the AC is not working. Bathrooms are in really bad shape. The tires of the buses are not in the best shape, either. And so, that is making their journey even more difficult. It’s already hard to go and to have this drive from El Paso, Texas, all the way to New York, a journey that should last — in well conditions, should last about like 35, 32 hours. But it adds 10 more hours of highway travels, only because the buses keep breaking down. Their tires keep getting flat, and the motor keeps overheating on every uphill. The AC didn’t work.

They don’t have any food or have like someone to provide for meals, water for the rest of the journey — just that first sandwich in El Paso and that bottle, single bottle of water. Obviously, most of them have no money. So, every time the drivers had to stop in the gas stations to charge for gas, they have to jump out and beg outside the stores for money or beg local employers to hand them over like some food or some fruit or some water to their kids. Most of the times the same drivers are putting their own pocket money to pay for meals for some of them, or even water.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Luis, could you comment? There’s been an explosion of migrants from Venezuela in the past year at the border. I think about 150,000 Venezuelans have been intercepted at the border by U.S. authorities. Could you talk about Mexico’s policy, because now, as I understand it, President López Obrador has agreed to accept into Mexico Venezuelans who the United States will not allow in, because the U.S. can’t send them back to Venezuela because there are no diplomatic relations with Venezuela?

LUIS CHAPARRO: Yes, exactly. That was a very particular issue facing — that most Venezuelans were facing. So, as Title 42 was forcing U.S. authorities to immediately expel migrants, the lack of a proper diplomatic relationship with Venezuela was preventing the U.S. to actually fly people back to Venezuela, like they’re doing with other countries. Now, Mexico has only agreed to take people from the Northern Triangle, meaning Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Mexican nationals, to stay here while they wait for their first immigration hearings — to wait, I mean, in Mexico, not here in El Paso. But the Venezuelans are not included into that program.

So, the Biden administration and the López Obrador administration have been having conversations lately. And apparently, Mexico will agree — I think it’s not yet official that they have agreed to this, but apparently that’s going to happen, maybe today, later today, later this week, where Mexico will accept Venezuelans to remain in Mexico, to stay in Mexico while they wait for their first immigration hearings. This, of course, it’s going to pose a threat for Venezuelan nationals, because, as you know, Mexico is not the safest place for migrants. It’s a place where they are being vulnerable not only to criminal organizations but also to corrupt immigration officials.

AMY GOODMAN: And back to the migrant convoy that you followed from Texas to New York, where were those asylum seekers from? And what happens to them when they get to New York?

LUIS CHAPARRO: So, most of these asylum seekers were from Venezuela, although there was a couple coming from other places, like Colombia, Panama and El Salvador. But the vast majority, I’m talking like more than maybe 95% of the buses, were from people, asylum seekers from Venezuela. And by the time they actually get to New York, which was extended because of the breaking down of the bus all along the way, they still had to be again processed in a shelter in New York. And some of them — we followed a young girl, a 19-year-old girl, traveling alone with her 3-year-old daughter. And they had to wait until 2:00 in the morning to actually find a place where they can stay. They’re staying at a shelter in Brooklyn, but that they only found that space up until 2:00 in the morning, after having to travel for more than 45 hours in that bus.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we will link to your piece following this convoy from El Paso to New York, “'The Kids Are Starving': 40 Hours on the Road With a Migrant Bus From Texas.” Luis Chaparro is a freelance journalist reporting from the U.S.-Mexico border. To see Part 1 of our discussion, go to democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Thanks for joining us.

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