Ten-year-old William Moncada called his mom in Miami two weeks ago and told her he was leaving his Honduran hometown and heading to the United States.
“ ‘Mommy, I want to see you,’ ” Wendy Moncada said her son told her. “ ‘I want to be with you.’ ”
William made it across the border but was caught soon after, joining the ongoing exodus of thousands of Central American children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. He is now in a federal detention center near the Mexican border.
Wendy Moncada, 28, told her son’s story at a recent news conference in Little Havana where leaders of Central American community organizations urged families in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to stop sending their children on the perilous journey to the U.S. border. They also urged the U.S. government to grant immigration documents to children already here and Congress to approve immigration reform as soon as possible to resolve the growing immigration crisis at the Southwest border.
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Community leaders blamed growing insecurity and poverty in the three countries for the flood of children.
“These children should really be seen as war refugees,” said Francisco Portillo, president of Miami-based Francisco Morazán Honduran Organization. “We all know about the insecurity that reigns in our countries. These children are threatened by criminal gangs and that’s why they decide to come to this country, fleeing from violence.”
Hermán Martínez, a Salvadoran who works for the human rights group American Friends Service Committee, said gang violence in Central America is at the heart of the crisis.
“Organized crime in our countries is creating this forced system of immigration,” Martínez said. “In this situation involving gangs, the option these children face is you leave or you die. These gangs must be classified as terrorists. If we had immigration reform, we would not be facing this problem.”
The highlight of the news conference, however, was Wendy Moncada’s story about her 10-year-old son’s journey from Juticalpa, Honduras, to a detention center, part of the flood of unaccompanied children flowing across the Mexican border.
Juticalpa is located about 110 miles northeast of Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital.
Moncada provided some details of the journey, but would not say whether she or her husband, Juan Carlos Villatoro, encouraged the child to make the trip or whether they paid a migrant smuggler to bring William across the border.
They did indicate that family friends who had previously crossed into the United States guided William on the journey.
The only thing the couple acknowledged was that they knew William was coming, accompanied by Moncada’s adult brother, and that both had left Honduras on June 7.
Moncada said a U.S. immigration official allowed her to talk to her son briefly on the phone, and that’s when she learned that he had safely crossed the border.
“I spoke to him three days ago,” Moncada told reporters Thursday.
She recreated the quick telephone conversation she had with William.
“I said to him ‘Hello, my son, how are you?’ ” she said.
“ ‘Hello mommy,’ he says to me, ‘I am fine.’ ”
William told his mother he did not know where he was being held, but that the place was full of children and they were all sleeping on the floor.
“Then I asked him if he any pains or ailments and he said, ‘No.’ So I advised him that if he felt sick to tell the officials there right away. I also said to him to pray to God so that we can be together again soon. Then he started crying.”