Hi Reddit. Maya Srikrishnan here. I’m a reporter at Voice of San Diego and I write about immigration and the San Diego-Tijuana border.

Last year, our border saw two large caravans of mainly Honduran asylum-seekers. I decided to go to San Pedro Sula, Honduras to see what was happening for myself and to see why so many Hondurans are leaving their country. Honduras has the highest migration rate per capita to the U.S.-Mexico border of any country.

Ask me anything about the situation in Honduras or about the San Diego-Tijuana border.

Here are some of my recent stories:

Proof here!

EDIT: I’ve go to get back to work now. Thanks so much for all of the great questions and interest in what I do! Keep them coming and I’ll try to respond when I have down time. If you want to support the work we do, consider signing up for one our free newsletters.

Comments: 180 • Responses: 10  • Date: 

Petite_and_powerful34 karma

Why are they seeking refuge all the way in America; can’t they stop anywhere else? Seems so far and so foreign and it seems like it would be much happier in South America somewhere.

VoiceofSanDiego7 karma

Hi, thanks for the question! There is a long history of Honduran -- and Central American -- migration to the U.S. That's a key reason why many people, especially those who are poorer and have fewer resources, continue to come here. Not only is there the greater precedent of Hondurans coming to the U.S. for decades to find safety and better economic opportunities, but most Hondurans actually have family, or at the very least friends, already here. When you're going to a new country, where you don't really know how anything works, having people in the country who can support you is a big pull.

iamtrollhearmeroar28 karma

What's the biggest misconception about immigration and the San Diego-Tijuana border? I feel like there are so many false narratives around immigration to the United States... from how people get to the U.S., what they bring into the U.S. with them, what they do once they're here.. etc.

Separately, any stories with positive outcomes that you can share?

VoiceofSanDiego80 karma

The biggest misconception is that most of the unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. come through the U.S.-Mexico border. That hasn't been the case for years!
The source of unauthorized immigrants that is growing the fastest today is that of visa overstays. Visa overstays have exceeded people entering the country without inspection for the past seven years. In 2016-2017, visa overstays accounted for 62 percent of undocumented immigrants, while 38 percent had crossed a border illegally. Most of those visa overstays come from China and India, not from Latin America.

VoiceofSanDiego10 karma

This isn't an entirely positive story, because it highlights a lot of problems in immigration courts, but the man featured won his asylum case! https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/news/few-central-americans-win-asylum-in-the-u-s-heres-how-one-man-did-it/

Shankens19 karma

What were some of the issues that made people come to the US, preferably some we don’t hear very often?

Also how are you?

VoiceofSanDiego41 karma

I'm doing well. Thanks for asking! Well, we've all heard about the poverty and violence extensively. I definitely heard those a lot. One thing that was interesting that I didn't realize before was that most people in large cities weren't struggling to find jobs, but that many working class jobs just didn't pay enough to keep up with the cost of living. I met many people who had jobs in maquilas, or foreign factories, but would spend up to a third of their paycheck each month just on energy and were still struggling just to buy enough food and take care of their families. For them, even though they had jobs, it made more sense to migrate.

The other thing I hadn't heard very often in the U.S. media was how much the country's problems were tied to the current presidential administration and the party that has been in power since the 2009 coup d'etat in Honduras. But once I learned that history and looked at migration patterns, there was a clear correlation. Since 2009, spending on things like health care and education have gone down significantly (with several corruption scandals where that money has been misspent). You've also seen a dramatic decrease in protections against woman for things like domestic violence and an increase in femicides. The two large caravans in 2018 came after an election in 2017 that is widely believed to be fraudulent and when people protested the outcome, the government violently cracked down killing more than 30 people. When I was there, there were mass protests against the administration over health care and education, but also over corruption. People just have lost hope that there is anyone in that country who will look out for them and they are at the point where they feel that not even their vote matters.

Krampus131318 karma

Not trying to dog them but I'm barely living pay check to pay check so should I just go to Canada or any other country in the hopes that someone will feel pity for me and my family?

Also why haven't they used the legal route by stopping at the point of entry to claim asylum instead of just illegally trying to cross? There are many areas in mexico that they could have done this.

VoiceofSanDiego16 karma

I think it's important to remember there are different reasons why people migrate. People who qualify for asylum in the U.S. under the law are actually fleeing violence and persecution. You can't get asylum under U.S. law for solely economic reasons. The increase we've been seeing in families at the border is largely asylum-seekers and many of the people not only are struggling economically but are also facing violence: domestic violence, gang violence, state violence. There are of course lots of other variables and every situation is different....it's definitely not easy to make ends meet in the U.S., but sometimes people can find better jobs in other cities or states. And many times, Central Americans coming have family here, so it's sort of a base point where they can get settled to start a new life. I think everyone has to make decisions constantly about what is best for them and their families and for some people, they make the decision to leave their country because that is what makes sense. Other people don't, because it wouldn't make sense for them.

It's been increasingly difficult to seek asylum at a port of entry. The government has implemented a policy called "metering" which limits how many people they take each day and is far lower than the people waiting in Mexico to cross and request asylum. In Tijuana, for example, there is a waiting list of over 9,000 people trying to ask for asylum at a port of entry and they face a months-long wait. Many people, because they fear staying in Tijuana (which has one of the highest murder rates in the world right now!) or because they just don't have the money or resources to continue to wait there, choose to cross illegally, or between ports of entry, so they can just be processed.

Shankens6 karma

Thank you for the response! I’m glad you’re doing well! Now as much as I want to help, I’m young and don’t have much money so I’m unsure how to go about helping the people. So, for someone who is young and doesn’t have much money, how could I help the situation?

VoiceofSanDiego12 karma

Most organizations that are working with asylum-seekers are strapped and can use volunteers for a variety of purposes. It just depends on what kind of ways you think you can help. Sometimes they look for sponsors for asylum-seekers who don't have family here, so they can get out of detention (though that requires money and a spare room often). Sometimes you can help with intake paperwork or translation if you speak other languages. Sometimes organizations want people to sit in immigration court just as observers. There are lots of ways to get involved.

blackcountrylad16 karma

What drives you to do what you do and how easy or hard is it for you to remain emotionally detached from the people that you see?

VoiceofSanDiego15 karma

I think journalism plays an important role in things like immigration, which are so politicized right now, in helping people understand the reality on the ground. It helps people see the perspectives of people they may not talk to regularly or grasp what certain policies actually do.

It is definitely not easy to remain emotionally detached from situations when you are reporting on vulnerable people. At the end of the day, I'm a journalist, but also a human being. I do try to make sure that regardless of how much emotion someone's story evokes in me, that I can still verify what they are saying before I write about it for other people. That's part of being a professional journalist. Most of the time, I have asylum seekers show me documents related to their case or corroborate things with other people who were there, like family members or witnesses. Those aren't always things that I can share with readers because often these cases are sensitive and people's lives may be at risk -- so it's different than linking to a financial document we obtain when we're writing about how a school district misspends money, for example -- but it's something I do on the back end.

valentinandchips6 karma

In your opinion, is the trek to the US justifiable from what you witnessed in Honduras?

VoiceofSanDiego15 karma

I met many people in really dire circumstances -- they could barely make ends meet or were scared for their lives. Having never been in either of those situations myself, it's hard for me to judge whether it's "justifiable" or not, but I heard several times that people felt they were going to be killed soon in Honduras and for them it was better to try to leave for something else -- and even die during the journey -- than stay where they were paralyzed waiting for it and that really struck me.

pseudo_academic5 karma

Are the people there genuinely hopeful for a better life? Tying into the long history of immigration from South America to the US, I’m wondering if the view of the States as a sage haven of sorts, with the possibility of an American Dream for everyone is still prevalent, or if the news that the American Dream is a sham has reached them as well.

I understand of course that it’s all a question of relativity and they’ll still most probably be safer there than where they are right now, so this may not even be a bother to them, I’m just wondering in general if the collective mental image of the US has changed, especially with the Trump administration.

Thanks so much in advance and thanks for the wonderful work you’re doing! greets from Austria

VoiceofSanDiego16 karma

Honestly, what really struck me was how little hope there was. I probably heard, "there's no hope here," from dozens of people in some form or another. I also heard many people say they would rather die on the journey to the U.S., than die in Honduras -- a fate they saw as inevitable. I think many people forget that Central Americans have been risking their lives to come to the U.S. for decades. Sometimes it slows, but when things are bad in their country, they are bad. Immigrants are rational people. If leaving was that much worse than staying in their country, they wouldn't leave. But they make decisions about what is best for them and right now, given the conditions in Honduras, for many that still means leaving.

pskendraaa3 karma

What were the first steps you took when assigned this beat? How do you cultivate sources?

VoiceofSanDiego8 karma

In general, I try to talk to anyone and everyone who might have perspective on something when I'm delving in to any kind of reporting that is new to me. When I went to Honduras, I had already met many Honduran asylum seekers at the San Diego-Tijuana border. Some of them had been deported and were in San Pedro Sula when I was, so I got a chance to talk to them again when they were in a different situation. Some of them pointed me to their friends and family members. I also reached out to academics and other journalists who had spent time in Honduras for suggestions on who I should talk to. That way I not only got the perspective from migrants and their families, but also experts/academics, Honduran journalists, advocates and local politicians.