Hondurans in NYC Organize to Help Compatriots in Caravan

Writer Roberto Quesada gets ready to help fellow Hondurans traveling in the migrant caravan. (Photo via El Diario)

Roberto Quesada has spent much of his life in New York, one of the U.S. cities where a large number of Hondurans live and where, as a writer, journalist and U.N. diplomat, he has been able to consolidate his “American dream.” (…) Even though he has been far away from his country of origin for almost 30 years, the coup d’état in Honduras in the summer of 2009 changed his perspective and that of his wife Lucy Pagoada-Quesada, born in the same country. (…) According to the couple, the resulting crisis is the root cause of the caravan of migrants who are desperately knocking on the United States’ door today.

“The coup violated the Republic’s Constitution. Respect for the law ceased, and a sense of all kinds of disorder and disrespect emerged, which resulted in deaths and generalized chaos,” said Quesada, adding that this destabilization of his country’s politics exacerbated the Honduran exodus.

(…) “In 2014, as many Honduran women who were pregnant or had just given birth with electronic shackles on were arriving, a number of religious leaders called on the Honduran community to help,” said Pagoada-Quesada, who works with the New Sanctuary Coalition, an organization protecting families who are about to be deported.

The couple is part of a growing community in New York, where at least 51,000 Hondurans live. (…) In early November, they joined dozens of people protesting in Manhattan’s Union Square to send a message of support to migrants on the border and to ask President Donald Trump’s government to “stop attacking Hondurans, as migrating is a right, not a crime.”

The protest is part of a more ambitious plan. “We are working to travel to the border to bring support services,” said Pagoada-Quesada. She splits her time between her job as a high school Spanish teacher in Queens and her community leader duties.

“In Honduras, we are living in a constant crisis. Things don’t happen out of the blue, and we want our compatriots who are on their way here to know that they’ll have a helping hand in New York,” she added. Pagoada-Quesada is planning to make the trip in early February. The first group of volunteers will leave New York in the first week of December.

“They are going to arrive there with aid, not just in the form of winter clothing and food, but also with legal assistance, which is what they need at the end of the day,” said Quesada.

Helping the few who will make it to NY

The requirements to request political asylum in the U.S. are not easy to meet. (…) Crescencio Bulnes Jr., president of the Sociedad Hondureña Activa de New York (SHANY Corp.), created in 1994, (…) believes that the situation is even more complex than most people in the caravan think.

“Three weeks ago, I advised one of my employees whose two nephews were traveling in the caravan to tell them to refrain from crossing the border wall, and they ended up returning to Honduras,” said Bulnes. (…)

Still, he explained that his office, located in the central Bronx and which also offers educational opportunities for immigrants working in construction, will take into account its prior experiences when the time comes to offer support to fellow Hondurans who are able to reach U.S. soil.

“This puts us on edge because it reminds me of the way we took in 100 women who survived La Bestia (The Beast) train and made it to our office a while ago,” he said. “At that moment, I got a contact at the La Española church to give them food. Also, Lincoln Hospital tended to them for several months because I gave them a special ID from our organization.”

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