Hanging out with friends, listening to music, and playing sports – markers of typical teenage life – were things Ruben H. could only dream of in Honduras.
“It’s hard to make people understand what it’s like in Honduras, but I’m OK with telling it,” Ruben says. “I want to help people understand why I left.”
A RISK WORTH TAKING
Ruben escaped violent cartel drug trade, human exploitation and ransom kidnappings by walking from his village of Dolores in the Honduran state of Copán. He was just 14.
“Tell the truth and you’re in trouble,” Ruben says. “Because I saw people stealing things, other people wanted to kill me.”
Walking from Honduras, through Guatemala and into Mexico – a grueling trek of 800 miles by road or longer if by trail or field – Ruben and other migrants boarded the Ruta Golfo, a freight train running along Mexico’s Gulf Coast.
Filled with migrants sitting in cargo beds or atop boxcars with no protection from the elements, the trains are rife with criminals seeking victims for kidnapping ransoms.
“One night I huddled for warmth with a stranger so I didn’t die from the cold,” Ruben says. “If I was crying or feeling sad, I asked God to take care of me.”
On August 1, 2012, wearing nothing but the clothes he traveled over 1,000 miles in, Ruben waded across the Rio Grande River into the United States.
Click to open a full size image TOURING AMERICA
Almost immediately, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took Ruben into custody, kicking off a 26-month, five-state tour of residential foster care facilities. In October 2014, Ruben entered Caminos, BCC’s program for unaccompanied children. Titled to honor the Spanish translation for “journey,” Caminos offered short-term shelter, medical care and case management support while youth awaited reunification with family or a sponsor.
BCC’s challenge initially was paperwork – without citizenship papers or a birth certificate, Ruben could not apply for a visa – and because he wasn’t 18, he could not stay in the United States. Viviana Camacho, Ruben’s BCC case manager, called the Honduran State Department several times a day for two weeks to unravel Ruben’s riddle.
Camacho had to get creative, too. “We drew a map, discovered Ruben’s hometown and ran an announcement on a local Honduran radio station,” Camacho says. “Someone heard it and told his mother. That was the break we needed.”
“That was maybe the best day of my life,” Ruben says of hearing his mother’s voice for the first time in three years. “My mother was so happy to hear me.”
FINALLY, SOME GRACE
Armed with his birth certificate and with help from a DC law firm, Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR), BCC helped Ruben qualify as a Child In Need of Assistance (CINA). That meant Ruben could stay in the United States instead of banishment back to Honduras when he turned 18.
Ruben embraced American culture. He played striker on his Baltimore County high school soccer team. He has made friends while taking hold of American culture. He learned to text in English, and has written close to 70 songs in Spanish.
Ruben believes his life has purpose thanks to the Board of Child Care. “In America, I’m not facing the danger I feared in Honduras,” Ruben says. “I’ve already done the hardest part. I’m at BCC because I believe God
wanted me to make a good decision.” This story originally appeared in our 2015 Annual Report. Click here to read all past annual reports.