We met Jose Angel on a sweltering afternoon at an airport on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula. Angel, 30, was touching ground in Honduras after spending months of detention in the United States. Like so many people we met at this small, dusty airport, he journeyed to the U.S. in search of a better life and economic stability. But he was eventually met with handcuffs and a one-way ticket to San Pedro Sula.
Give the circumstances–after all, when we met him, Angel had literally just gotten off a plane with Honduras-bound deportees, with only the clothes on his back and a trash bag of possessions–we expected he would be less than pleased to talk to a group of reporters. But Angel, and others, were surprisingly open–and in surprisingly good spirits. Some were happy to finally see their families after years of separation; others were relieved to be done with the humiliation of detention in the United States. As another young man told us, cheerily sipping a bag of maracuyá, “they handcuff you on the plane. They literally treat you like El Chapo.”
It was unclear if the poor treatment would really deter the people we met from trying their luck on the journey North once again. Some vowed to stay in Honduras–it wasn’t worth the risk, they said–while others pledged to immediately try again. “I’m on my way,” joked a lanky twenty-one-year-old with a baby in the United States. “Like, now.”
His approach seemed in-line with the observations of a talkative airport guard, who estimated that about eighty percent of the people he saw deported would try to go to the U.S. again. He said he often recognized many of the faces who walked through the airport’s gates from previous deportations. As for Angel, only time will tell what the future will bring. I got his email, so we will be in touch.
– Erica Hellerstein