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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Migrant girl packs suitcases, drives to Detroit

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She is prepared for criticism because she has decided that she is putting her life on the line: She is telling her story, in these photos, as she sets out on her journey north, from an undisclosed port city in a part of Latin America, into the Great Lakes, and then to the U.S.

“This has always been my dream,” she said from behind the tinted-out “no commenting” window of her cab in northern Detroit, where she is trying to find a friend with whom to stay during her trip. “To see my face on a big screen, in a movie theater, is something I’ve dreamed of for my whole life. And here it is. But the sacrifices are so hard to make: to travel without a visa; the transportation, the accommodation, the visa, all that. I just want to go to the U.S. and do my best.”

Her background as an undocumented immigrant, which she gave little thought to until she was 15, was what set her on this path. She is hoping to one day receive amnesty or a legal status, and she knows her story may not end there: What happens when she finds work in a U.S. town with widespread anti-immigrant sentiment? Does she try to hide from the neighbors who would question her if they knew where she came from? What if she is offered work in a chain restaurant that is high on anti-immigrant sentiment?

“What I’ve thought of is the exploitation of migrant workers and women, and the language barrier, and I hope that I am not exploited,” she said.

She describes her homeland as a state without law: Rows of rickety police cars stood in the streets; people stayed inside and no one ventured out, fearing violence. The Honduran currency is worthless, she said, and all laws were enforced on the streets. And when it rained, or was freezing cold, people locked the doors to their houses. “I came from nothing,” she said.

Her family lives in a rundown warehouse apartment with five to six rooms. She doesn’t see that as a hardship, but it is almost impossible to survive off her two sisters, who help take care of her. “I haven’t been able to ask my sister for help since I was very young,” she said.

“I really want to live a normal life, to find work, and to go to school,” she said.

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