Since last October, more than 57,000 kids from Central America have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. Many of these immigrant children are living in North Texas. Brayan Arce is one of them. He's from Honduras, but he says that living there has become too dangerous, especially for kids. Brayan, who's 14, shares his story of how he came to join his mom in Dallas. He hadn't seen her in 11 years.
Brayan Arce grew up in a small coastal Honduran town called Arizona. Before he turned 2, his mom left for the United States, so his grandmother raised him. For years, he yearned to join his mom, partly because of his neighborhood.
“Right next door, there was a man named Rigo who was kind of crazy,” Brayan said. “My grandmother could no longer take care of me, so my mom sent for me.”
Brayan says that everyone was scared of Rigo. He drank a lot and would get angry and violent. Sometimes, he’d throw his own wife out of the house. Nearby, a soccer field had become a battle ground.
“Every Sunday, people would drink there,” Brayan said. “Sometimes, they’d get into fights and someone would show up with a gun and start shooting into the air.”
Brayan’s mom, Delmy Arce, wanted him to escape that violence and join her in Dallas. When she came to the U.S., it was for economic reasons. She was 18 and traveled with her boyfriend at the time. She’s 31 now. And they’ve had two more children since they arrived.
Arce is grateful that Brayan survived the trek north.
“Thank God I didn’t lose my son. Thank God he’s with me,” Arce said. “But it’s hard. It’s hard for the parents and the children, because they’re exposed to a lot of danger. If they stay, they’re in danger. If they leave, they’re in danger.”
His journey to Dallas
Brayan’s journey late last year wasn’t as treacherous as some. He came by bus because his mom didn’t want him to walk. It took him two weeks. He traveled through Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico. He and the coyote, or smuggler, crossed the Rio Grande on a small, inflatable raft. A Border Patrol agent caught him after he tried sneaking around the main road. He was sent to a detention center in Laredo.
“I was really scared and I was sad, because when we got there I saw a bunch of kids laying on the floor,” Brayan said. “They just gave us sandwiches. They weren’t very good. They gave us water, but it had chlorine in it and nobody drank it.”
Brayan spent time in three different centers before transferring to a shelter in Chicago. That place felt more like a school, because the kids were given lessons, he said.
Learning wasn’t always a priority back home. In Honduras, he said some teachers stopped teaching or made fun of students.
"I was so happy"
Now, his mom said he enjoys school. This fall, he'll be in ninth grade at J.J. Pearce High School in the Richardson school district.
“I told him the school bus would pick him up from home,” Arce said. “He said, ‘Wow, how much is it going to cost?’ I told him, ‘No, there’s no cost. The school sends the bus to pick up the children.’ He was very emotional. Very happy.”
Bryan and his mom are making up for lost time.
“I was so happy because I hadn’t seen her in 11 years,” Brayan said. “I was glad because we're finally together.”
He’s also been reunited with his stepsister, who left Honduras a week before him and two younger half-siblings he’d never met.
“It’s very different,” he said. “Over there, I didn’t have my siblings. All of them are here and I love them very much.”
An uncertain future
Still, there’s a lot of uncertainty. In early July, Brayan and his mom went before an immigration judge in Dallas federal court. They didn’t have an attorney, so they were given more time to find one.
“I would like him to stay. I don’t know what the decision will be,” Arce said. “I think every mother who decides to send their children here doesn’t do it to harm them. We do it to protect them.”
Brayan’s next court date is scheduled for October. By then, he’ll be deep into his freshman year, learning the language and making new friends.