Leveraging its unique capacity to speak candidly, in their own language with both asylum-seeking Central Americans and their coyotes, Univision is providing revealing coverage of the current, out-of-control crisis at America’s southern border.
Two big takeaways from the network’s latest coverage: 1. the message that kids have become a ‘ticket’ for Central Americans to freely enter the U.S. could not be more explicit and 2. the coyotes are having a field day promoting and abusing current U.S. protocols for handling the asylum petitions by family units coming from the region.
Reporting by Univision correspondent Pedro Ultreras may even incentivize the onslaught. Specifically, on March 28 Ultreras showed off the ‘success’ story of a Honduran family in which this past January the husband took the couple’s oldest son to the U.S., has since gotten a job and is now regularly sending money to his wife and the rest of their children back home.
JORGE RAMOS, ANCHOR, UNIVISION: The rumor spread in Central America is that the possibility of attaining asylum increases if an immigrant is traveling with a minor. That is why we see large amounts of whole families or, for example, a father with a child crossing the border. Pedro Ultreras saw it.
PEDRO ULTRERAS, CORRESPONDENT, UNIVISION: Migrant children of caravans or any Central American minor reaching the northern border accompanying their parents have become a kind of visa to enter United States.
IRIS OREIDA MURILLO, HONDURAN IMMIGRANT: With children, you can have a free pass, they say
ULTRERAS: That´s what is heard…
MURILLO: That is what is heard here in Honduras, yes
ULTRERAS: In Central America the rumor has spread that if they travel with children they will get permission to stay in the American Union. Therefore, everyone tries to bring at least one.
EMMA PORTILLO, IMMIGRANT: He said which one of the three I would give him and I told him to take the eldest.
ULTRERAS: Emma´s husband left with the caravan of January 15 and took the eldest of three children of the marriage. He soon crossed and was released by immigration. He has been working for a month and his family in Honduras is already seeing the results. So in one month since he arrived he has sent money twice.
PORTILLO: Yes, I have received money twice.
ULTRERAS: So, everything worked out.
PORTILLO: Yes, thank God.
ULTRERAS: The American Dream is now possible through children
As Ultreras also reports, this kid-as-ticket phenomenon also comes at a high price to the health of some of the minors, who are routinely drugged by the coyotes for up to six days so they won’t complain (or eat or drink) during the journey. In an interview with a coyote in Guatemala, the Univision reporter also documented the dishonest tactics being used to drum up business.
PEDRO ULTRERAS, CORRESPONDENT, UNIVISION: Every day parents are leaving with children fleeing poverty and they tell them that immigration is letting them enter.
COYOTE: Free and they will get their documents
ULTRERAS: That´s what you tell them? But you know that is not true.
COYOTE: We very well know that is not true.
ULTRERAS: You lie to hook them up?
COYOTE: We are lying to hook them up.
ULTRERAS: To keep on making money?
COYOTE: To keep on making money.
The numbers revealed by Ultreras, to the tune of 90,000 migrants crossing the U.S. southern border since January 2019, show that “50,000 are adults and 40,000 children.” Border Patrol statistics further document the spike: in fiscal year 2013, 15,056 family units were apprehended along the country’s southern border; in FY 2018, the number blew up to 107,490 family units.