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Deported Without His Daughter


Now let's hear from John. He's a single father in his 30s who fled Honduras with his daughter last May. They were separated at the border and he was deported without her. We're using only his middle name because he fears for his and his daughter's safety. He started by telling us why he left Honduras in the first place. Reporter James Fredrick interprets.

JOHN: (Speaking Spanish).

JAMES FREDRICK, BYLINE: John said he left because he was threatened by the 18th Street gang and they had sent death threats. He had been threatened by them multiple times. You know, he says he didn't ever - he never had the dream of, like, going North. He didn't have the American dream in his head, but he knew he had to go somewhere where no one knew him because he was so scared for his life. You know, he had a job in Honduras. He had a house. He had a whole - he had a whole life. But he said the increase in threats just made it impossible for him to go. He knew the journey up through Mexico was dangerous. He knew it was really hard. But he just said he felt like he had no other option eventually.

MONTAGNE: And when he says threatened, why would he have been threatened?

JOHN: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDRICK: So John was a policeman in Honduras, so he said threats and intimidation from gangs, he was quite used to because that's the risk he runs as a policeman. And so he said he was accustomed to it for that, but he was kind of protected as a policeman. He said the problem lies that when his ex-wife got together with one of the leaders of the 18th Street gang, that the threats became more personal and more intense. He says that she and the gang have since been threatening his daughter, also, with a kind of initiation into the gang world via rape. So he felt like it was just a matter of time. And so he knew how dangerous the journey was, but he just thought for both him and his daughter it was the only option, and he couldn't leave his daughter in Honduras. He says she has no one else to take care of her.

MONTAGNE: That's obviously a terrible situation. What happened when you arrived in the U.S. exactly? How were you separated from your daughter?

JOHN: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDRICK: They did pay a coyote to help them get to the U.S. border and then across, although they were kidnapped briefly in Mexico and had the money they had on them taken from them. But they made it to the Rio Grande. They crossed the Rio Grande and got, you know, soaking wet, got across. And then soon after getting into the United States, they were picked up by Border Patrol. And, you know, he says from this moment it was just really horrible. They, you know, were soaking wet and then were taken to a detention center where the air was really cold. So he says they were just freezing and shivering because they were in wet clothes. They were like that throughout the night as they were kind of processed and registered into the system. And he says none of this was made clear at the time but the next day they took his daughter to go away and he said, you know, where are you taking her? What are you doing? And they said, you know, we're just going to give her a new change of clothes. He agreed to let them take his daughter to give her a new change of clothes because they were sitting there freezing and shivering. And he has not seen his daughter since.

MONTAGNE: And you agreed, though, to be deported?

JOHN: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDRICK: He said no. He said he never agreed to be deported. He never thought he was being deported. Whatever forms he signed - which he does not know. He doesn't speak English. He was not given a Spanish translation of anything. But he says he signed something but was told that it was not his voluntary return. But given that he was deported to Honduras, it appears that is what he signed.

MONTAGNE: Since your daughter was taken away rather suddenly, have you been able to speak with her since then?

JOHN: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDRICK: Since the last time he saw her, John has talked to his daughter on the phone twice. And the last time he spoke to her a few days ago, he said, you know, she was very upset, that she feels depressed and that lately she has been sick. She has some kind of stomach illness. And so he just said, you know, he's more and more worried about her. Last time he talked to her, he said she sounded really bad and he hasn't heard from her since. And so he's just been, you know, worried sick since the last time he talked to her.

MONTAGNE: Does this give you hope, though, that in some time in the near future you will be able to get together with your daughter? And do you want - do you want that to be her coming back to Honduras?

JOHN: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDRICK: He said he doesn't want her to be back in Honduras. He said that's the last thing he wants and that if he has to suffer through living in Honduras and never seeing his daughter again but her being able to stay in the United States, he said that's OK, that he will live with never seeing his daughter again. But he just - he says he cannot put her at the risk of being back in Honduras.

MONTAGNE: What seems to be happening is that you really don't know what's happening or can happen. Is there a next step that you can imagine?

JOHN: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDRICK: He said he doesn't know what comes next. And then he just said, you know, I'm just asking for - you know, from American authorities, I'm just asking for compassion. I didn't want to leave my country. That wasn't, you know, what I had ever intended to do. But I saw no other option for me and my daughter. He lost his job. He lost his house. You know, he said he just has nothing anymore. And the last thing he had was his daughter and he doesn't have her anymore either.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you for sharing this with us. John, who has been deported without his daughter, is speaking to us from Honduras. Gracias, thank you again.

JOHN: Gracias.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: A previous version of the transcript misspelled James Fredrick's last name as Frederick.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: July 28, 2018 at 11:00 PM CDT
A previous version of the transcript misspelled James Fredrick's last name as Frederick.
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