SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — Many Hondurans who attempted to enter the U.S. illegally before ending up back where they started are committed to undertaking the dangerous journey again.
While officials in towns and cities in the U.S. struggle to process the influx of undocumented immigrants flooding in from Central America, Honduran authorities are met with a similar challenge of housing and repatriating the ones who are sent back.
The Honduran government plans to receive 10 buses each week of their citizens who fled the country to the U.S. but have been deported, Ana Garcia de Hernandez, the first lady of Honduras, told local media here. Many of the deportees are women and children who spent weeks trekking to the U.S. border.
An additional 2,500 migrants are expected to be bused from Mexico, where they were caught before arriving at their intended destination.
The lone immigration center in San Pedro Sula, a city in northwestern Honduras, is overwhelmed by the mass of women and children deported from Mexico alone.
The director of the center, Zobeyda Mejia, said the shelter lacks food, bedding and bathrooms to accommodate the increase of occupants it has received in the past year, which she attributed to a misinterpretation of President Barack Obama’s message about immigration reform.
Many women here say they were surprised when they were stopped by officials at the border who turned them over to Mexican authorities. They expected to be easily let into the U.S., in pursuit of “opportunity” and seeking a reprieve from “gang violence,” Mejia said.
Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world at 90 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2012, while the city of San Pedro Sula has a murder rate that is more than double the country’s average with 187 homicides per 100,000 residents, according to the PEW Research Center. Honduras is also one of the poorest nations in the world, with nearly a third of its citizens living on less than $2 a day, according to the World Bank.
Children travelling without an adult have additional motivation. Many are on a quest to meet their mothers or fathers who are already in America. Since October, more than 52,000 children traveling without an adult were caught entering the United States through Mexico. At least 5 percent of the children are from San Pedro Sula, according to PEW.
One young woman who arrived Friday with nearly 200 others told NBC News she has tried to flee Honduras three times in an effort to reach her family in New York. Upon her arrival back to San Pedro Sula, she said she planned to turn around and try again.
“The ones getting through are on rafts,” the woman noted, saying she would employ that strategy during her upcoming attempt.
She is not alone in her resolve. Nearly every mother here said they would leave Honduras again until they were permanently in the United States.
Social workers at the center offered to help the women find jobs in Honduras. Only one woman expressed interest in the opportunity.
Stephanie Gosk and Mary Murray reported from San Pedro Sula. Elisha Fieldstadt reported from New York.