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Why Hondurans Risk The Trip To The U.S. Border


A caravan of some 1,100 Central American migrants has stopped in southern Mexico. President Trump has warned that these people could be a threat to the United States if they're allowed to cross the border. Many members of the group say they are families fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries. Lester Ramirez is with the group Transparency International in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Speaking to us via Skype, Ramirez told us that people are fleeing Honduras for a number of reasons following a disputed presidential election last November.

LESTER RAMIREZ: People are feeling, you know, a perception that the economy is not going to do well, the political unrest is going to continue, and of course with a very fragile government and a very fragile state, the violent situation with the gangs and the military is going to increase also. And then you have the big unemployment rate also in the country.

DETROW: You're laying out a scenario where you can understand why a lot of people do feel the need to try to go somewhere else. But I'm wondering what your conversations have been like with family members of people who have made the tough decision to immigrate. You know, what are their concerns? What are their hopes for these family members who are making a journey that has a lot of challenges and a lot of peril?

RAMIREZ: Well, most of the people that I've talked to, they understand the risks. Just crossing Mexico, there's a lot of - you know, all of the crime there and the criminal organizations. There's human trafficking, and there's rapes and all of this. But they're seeing that - they have to immigrate because they don't see any opportunity to obtain, you know, any type of economic advancement.

DETROW: Do any of these families have any concrete plans for what they would do if their family members are turned back and can't get into the United States?

RAMIREZ: A lot of them have family members in the United States, but what they do usually is they try a few times. I mean, a lot of them, especially the men, are willing to try it again. This is something that, you know, has to be dealt with not by, you know, putting a wall in the border. I think it has to be dealt with here in our countries.

DETROW: One last thing - when you talk about the situation in Honduras right now, the crime, the economy, the election that so many people disputed, you're really painting a picture of a situation that doesn't seem like it can be easily solved anytime soon.

RAMIREZ: It will take time, I mean, creating sustainable economic opportunities, creating jobs in a country where there's a very low level of education. And this depends on, you know, stable policies in terms of, you know, investment and stable policies in terms of governance also. And this is something that our governments haven't had the willpower to do. This is something that is very critical to us also. We've also been seeing a lot of people who have higher education, people who are - have gone out to other countries and studied and come back to Honduras. But there has been a brain drainage, if you consider that way, of a lot of very good professionals leaving their countries because it's a very unstable situation right now.

DETROW: Lester Ramirez is the director for governance for Transparency International in Honduras. Thanks so much.

RAMIREZ: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.