Images on assignment for ZUMAPress
The Dangerous Quest for Asylum
Photography and Text by Carol Guzy
Flashlights appear in the of darkness at midnight on a riverbank in Roma, Texas and the first sound that breaks the stillness is usually a baby crying. Then the inflation of a rubber raft that soon carries a slice of desperate humanity, women and children mostly, across the Rio Grande from Mexico to their American Dream.
Smugglers called ‘coyotes’ provide passage, at times wearing Pikachu masks providing an ethereal scene.
After an arduous journey from Central American countries, some weep or pray but there is mostly a blanket of deep weariness. It is rumored they pay between $500 – $1500 per person just to cross this narrow swath of water and perhaps over $6,000 to travel from their homeland, skirting cartel violence. The ground is littered with bracelets they wore to prove payment.
At times they are met by Texas Rangers carrying babies to shore but usually National Guard troops guide them to a patch of earth to await CBP officers and turn themselves into custody on the next step of their path. As this human drama enfolds, infants sleep in their mother’s embrace and children play with rocks in this new land.
A boy wears a Superman cape as his mother tearfully states in Spanish that he is her superhero. They had heard bringing children under 7 years old could ensure they would stay. Occasionally runners are captured, nearly impossible to evade the helicopters and surveillance drones overhead.
A surge of asylum-seeking migrants has arrived at the southern U.S. borders recently, overwhelming facilities and keeping border patrol bustling. Some are released with ankle monitors and instructed to appear at immigration court but there are daily deportations.
The refugee crisis in America is a divisive political football putting the new Biden administration in a quandary, but for these families it is simply the eternal quest for a better life.
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