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After long, dangerous journey, this migrant’s dream may end in Tijuana

We followed Honduran Karla Cruz from southern Mexico to the U.S. border as she traveled with a caravan of migrants. She hoped to escape violence at home and make it to Texas, where her mother fled 15 years ago. But thousands of miles later, Cruz and her companions faced a closed border and the potential end of a dream. Producer Julia Galiano-Rios and correspondent Nick Schifrin report.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The men, women and children in Tijuana started their journeys thousands of miles to the south.

    We wanted to understand their motivations and see what it's been like along the route.

    Producer Julia Galiano-Rios followed one member of the caravan all the way to the U.S. border, starting in a Mexican city 70 miles from the Guatemala border.

    Here's Nick Schifrin.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    One month ago yesterday, in the central square of Mapastepec, we met 23-year-old Karla Cruz. Her and her friends' shoes were worn from the 500 miles they'd already walked.

    But she joked and smiled, even as they set off at 3:00 a.m. to beat the heat. Like so many along this migrant and refugee route, Cruz's dreams were born of nightmares. To the south is home, one of Honduras' most violent cities.

    To the north is Texas, where her mother fled 15 years ago, leaving Cruz behind when she was just 8 years old.

  • Karla Cruz (through translator):

    You don't have the words to say it because you're also so young. So it's terrible, how parents abandon their children for a better future? The truth is, I will be content with just seeing my mom, even if it means I will get deported. Well, after 15 years, don't you think I do deserve a smile?

  • Nick Schifrin:

    At first, the journey provided hope, through temporary shelters, where infants wear their American icons and dreams around their necks, and where these migrants and asylum seekers had messages for President Trump.

  • Karla Cruz (through translator):

    I want to get ahead. I want to maybe finish university. I want to maybe learn his language, and that he also understands that we're not criminals. We're people who want to better ourselves.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    That was October 25. As Cruz traveled north, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen inaugurated a new section of the border wall, and announced 800 additional service members would deploy to protect it.

  • Kirstjen Nielsen:

    We do not have any intention right now to shoot at people. They will be apprehended, however.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Despite the threat, Cruz kept going, trying to hitch a ride from trucks whose flatbeds were already full. All they could provide was precious drinking water.

    They walked through Tapanatepec on October 27, and Juchitan on October 29, where she looked at Facebook photos of her family, including the mother and stepfather she longed to join.

    She traveled with her cousin, and made friends along the road for security and companionship, through Mexican towns she'd already seen on previous attempts to go north.

    And when our camerawoman jokes the ride was romantic, her laugh still came naturally. That same night, President Trump spoke on FOX News.

  • President Donald Trump:

    When you look at that caravan, and you look at largely, very, you know, big percentage of men young, strong, a lot of bad people, a lot of bad people in there.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The next day, the Trump administration announced it would deploy 5,000 additional service members to the border.

  • Man:

    The president has made it clear that border security is national security.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But Cruz kept walking, for seven days, to Mexico City, where thousands set up temporary lives in a converted soccer stadium. By then, they were weary. She visited doctors provided by the Mexican government who said she had a fever and low blood pressure.

    She admitted, the closer she got to the U.S., the harsher the rhetoric, the more difficult the reality. She finally acknowledged she might not make it.

  • Karla Cruz (through translator):

    Because of how protected the borders are now, I think it's going to be a bit hard. And to be caught and be locked up for six months, I don't think I'm willing to do that yet. I don't understand why they treat us badly, why they don't want us in their country.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But, on that day, the pull of a better life eclipsed fear. And eventually she hitched a ride for the last stretch all the way to Tijuana.

    She arrived on November the 20th on a government-provided bus. She took comfort from a newly acquired stuffed bear. And then she watched this weekend as hundreds, including her cousin, tried to rush the border, and the Border Patrol responded with tear gas.

    And on the side of the road, we asked one last time about her plans.

  • Karla Cruz (through translator):

    I'm scared. I don't want to be here anymore.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    After traveling so far, she finally feels resignation.

  • Karla Cruz (through translator):

    Maybe this wasn't what I was expecting. I thought that, when we got here, we were going to try to cross right away, not to park here, like, to live, because that's what the majority is doing here, living.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    She had gone 2,700 miles for a month-and-a-half. But, tonight, she's considering giving up, and turning herself into Mexican authorities, so they can deport her back home.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.

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