A Migrant Family Put Their Hopes In President Biden. Now They’re Safe In The United States
Thursday, June 3, 2021
Photo by Matthew Bowler
It’s early March at the migrant encampment in El Chaparral plaza in Tijuana. There, hundreds of asylum-seekers are seeking information, any sign that they’ll be allowed into the U.S. under the new Biden administration.
Bredin Lainez is one of these asylum-seekers. He has his six month old son strapped to his chest. He and his partner have been waiting in Mexico for a year and a half to declare asylum in the U.S., fleeing as Honduras deteriorates amidst political violence and social instability.
Lainez pulls a flag he’s carrying with him out of a backpack. It’s a “Biden for President” flag, and Lainez waves it in front of him. To him, it represents a new chance, a possible reversal of fortune after a brutal few years.
Finally Through To San Diego
Sitting in Mission Bay Park this past Tuesday, Lainez teared up thinking about what his family has had to go through to get here. His son is now nine months old and on the verge of walking.
“Well, I initially had plans to give up and say, ‘I’m only going this far,’” he recalled in Spanish. The family had tried to settle in Mexico, but they faced harassment by local police and it was too dangerous for them to stay.
Lainez showed off scars from a machete attack in Honduras. He said it was politically motivated and places the blame on the embattled Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal drug conspiracy case in New York this spring.
Lainez said he thought he was going to be killed in the machete attack.
“They had started to finish me off but God suddenly put a guardian angel in my path, one who defended me — because I have no idea how I was able to defend myself,” he said.
Lainez and his partner, Yuris Erazo, left the country with Lainez’s clothes still wet. His mother had just done laundry — but he was sure if he stayed, they’d be killed.
That escape led them to Mexico. But then Lainez and Yuris Erazo encountered a Trump-era policy known as Title 42, which put a near-total halt to the processing of all asylum-seekers at the border during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recent weeks, an agreement hammered out by the Biden administration and the American Civil Liberties Union has allowed vulnerable asylum-seekers to enter the United States.
Erazo described just how bad things were in the migrant encampment, where they moved after a year already spent in shelters in Tijuana.
“It was all very difficult. The children cried from the cold. They gave us blankets. It was very sad, but we triumphed and here we are, thank God,” Erazo said.
They were assisted by a consortium of groups, including the American Friends Service Committee and Border Angels, that have been locating vulnerable migrants in the tent encampment, and getting them approved to enter the United States through the arrangement with the ACLU.
After crossing the border last week, they stayed in a hotel room paid for by the state until travel could be arranged.
A Flight, And The Next Step In A Longer Journey
On Tuesday, Eitan Peled from Jewish Family Service of San Diego helped the family get ready to move to New York, where their sponsor awaits. The group helped around 3600 migrants entering the U.S. during the month of May.
He showed the young family how to navigate San Diego International Airport. They had never been in an airport before, and accidentally checked their food and diapers with their larger bag. But Peled helped them find replacement items in the terminal.
“We’re really excited that we’re seeing arrivals again, and we’re seeing arrivals in the numbers that we are because these are people in desperate need of help and of international protections. The implementation of something like Title 42 denied people that access. What we’re doing is showing people we can both protect public health and afford people the right to seek asylum,” he said.
Lainez said he got comments about the “Biden for President” flag he flew. But it wasn’t Biden that motivated him to come — the family had arrived in Mexico during the heights of former President Trump’s restrictive asylum policies. People tried to get him to take his flag down, but he said it kept him going during tough times.
“They tried to, like they say, bring me down, so that I’d lose hope of someday getting here,” Lainez said.
On Tuesday morning, Lainez, Erazo, and their son walked down the jetway to a plane. They’ll face years of uncertainty about their status in the U.S., but for the first time in two years, their lives were no longer in immediate danger.
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