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Roxana Rivera.
Roxana Rivera. Source: CNN

On the banks of the Rio Grande, near the town of Hildalgo in South Texas, dozens of undocumented immigrants, mostly women and young children, descended a hill on the Mexican side of the border in an orderly procession.

The sun set Thursday over an all-too-familiar portrait of despair in the Rio Grande Valley. Some women carried crying babies, while others carried bags of belongings to the banks of the muddy river, where a group of men waited for them in life jackets to take turns from Mexico to the United States. That day alone, according to authorities, 2,000 migrants were captured in the valley.

“From Honduras,” several immigrants called a CNN correspondent who asked where they were from. Some had been traveling for months, fleeing violence, poverty, and destruction a couple of hurricanes, they said. CNN noted that the raft made about half a dozen trips across the river.

“We’re coming to a new opportunity,” said one man, who traveled with his wife and young daughter.

The scene reflects one wave of migrants, especially children, challenging the new administration of President Biden, who took office promising to reverse hard line policies of its predecessor.

Roxana Rivera, 28, said she and her six-year-old daughter left Honduras after consecutive November hurricanes destroyed their home and everything in it.

The news back home, Rivera said, was that the United States now allowed people with children to cross the border freely, which was not entirely true. He heard that on the news, he said. U.S. relatives transmitted the same information. Other migrants had similar stories.

Rivera said she was euphoric when border agents picked up the group with whom she crossed the border, mostly mothers and children. The migrants were prosecuted and transferred to a bus station in Brownsville, Texas, where they were tested for Covid-19 and offered supplies to nonprofits before being released. He planned to stay with relatives in Houston while his immigration case is being processed.

“You always dream of living in a house with your kids,” Rivera said, getting excited. “Now we have nothing … We dream of having a house.”

Rivera said he sometimes regretted embarking on the long journey north on foot and by train, putting his daughter’s life at risk. Sometimes the girl asked for food and had none. Once, she said, her daughter became dehydrated. Again he had to seek medical attention in Mexico when his daughter had a fever.

Maria Mendoza, a 30-year-old migrant from El Salvador, appeared exhausted when she arrived in Brownsville after being prosecuted by immigration officials. She was looking forward to meeting relatives living in Maryland, she said through tears.

Mendoza recalled that the raft she and others used on a midnight crossing of the Rio Grande turned around, sending several mothers and their children into the water. He said there were days he didn’t eat so his 6-year-old daughter wouldn’t go hungry. Her daughter remembered avoiding a snake along the way.

“I want more than anything to reunite with my family,” he said. “We want to make a living here. A better future for our children.”

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