After U.S. deportation, a Honduran mother and daughter's uncertain fate

Fri Jul 18, 2014 4:20pm EDT
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By Gabriel Stargardter and Gustavo Palencia

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - When 9-year-old Genesis stepped off a plane in Honduras after being deported from the United States, she was excited at the thought of seeing her cousins. For her mother, Victoria Cordova, the homecoming was terrifying: she fears being killed if she does not repay money she owes the wife of a local gang leader.

Cordova had used the money to pay a smuggler to get her and Genesis to the United States. But after a grueling 2,500 km (1,600 mile) overland trek, the pair were caught entering Texas in June, sent to a detention center and then flown home this week as part of a U.S. effort to speed up the expulsion of thousands of illegal migrants, many of them children.

Mother and daughter, who had fled rampant violence in the Honduran city of Tegucigalpa, returned to a situation even more precarious than the one they had left. Cordova, who is unemployed, does not know how she is going to repay the loan.

Their story is emblematic of a wider problem that has been little reported: threats, debts and despair often lie in wait for migrants deported back to violence-racked Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Deported migrants often become targets of the gangs they tried to escape, and their jobs prospects are grim. They face stigmatization upon return, being lumped in with people deported for more serious offenses than crossing the border illegally.

Genesis, who gave up her friends, her dog and her toys to travel 25 days north with her mother, sometimes sleeping in mud in pouring rain, was only too glad to be sent back.

"I'm happy to be going because I'm going to see my cousins," Genesis told Reuters after getting off a U.S. charter flight on Monday with 20 other children and 17 women in San Pedro Sula, the city with the highest murder rate in the world.

But the innocent comment belied the reality awaiting her mother in a country where gangs control the crushingly poor neighborhoods many migrants seek to escape.   Continued...

Victoria Cordova and her daughter Genesis Zepeda, both recently deported from the U.S., sit at their home at the impoverished 21 de Marzo neighbourhood in Tegucigalpa July 15, 2014. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera