Hondurans risk — and sometimes lose — life and limb for a better life in the U.S.


By Stefanie Casdorph

They call it the “La Beastia” — the “The Beast” train — a network of Mexican freight trains used as a mode of transportation by Central American immigrants seeking to come to the United States in search of work. Riding these trains is extremely risky and dangerous.

Last week, a group of eight men visited Bread for the World’s Washington, D.C., office to share their stories of riding “The Beast” train. They have all suffered injuries while riding the trains into the U.S. As a result, they have banded together to form the Association of Returning Migrants with Disabilities (AMIREDIS). This association supports the over 700 disabled migrants who have returned to Honduras.

Honduras is a country filled with poverty and violence, and there is very little work available. Many men and women have left for other countries, seeking better lives. José, one of the visitors to Bread’s office, was one of these immigrants, hoping to find a job to provide for his five children.

He told the harrowing story of how he lost his hand, arm, and leg while riding a freight train. Exhaustion caused him to pass out and fall from the train. As he fell, one of his legs became trapped under the rushing train. In the process of trying to free his leg, his arm became trapped. Using his other arm, he tried to pull his limbs free but lost his hand in the process as well as the other limbs.

A Red Cross paramedic eventually came to his aid and basically saved his life, he said. After spending two years in a Mexican hospital, Jose returned to his home in Honduras.

Without his hand, he would no longer be able to do two of his favorite things: compete in soccer and play the guitar. But sadder for Jose was the realization that his life in Honduras had not changed.

There were still no jobs, and poverty and hunger were still widespread. And with his disability, José was even less able to get a job to support his family. All of the men of AMIREDIS have suffered similar injuries. José said: “Our reality is very difficult, even before our disabilities. Now it is even more difficult.”

José said he knew he needed to do something, He wanted to help make Honduras a better place. José’s new goal is to change his government, to make sure that it helps fix the issues plaguing their nation. He hopes the government will eventually help families like himself with food and medical assistance, and scholarship opportunities for children. The eight men, all of whom suffered injuries during their initial journey to the United States, have now traveled back to the United States seeking help for their country. They hope to meet with churches, nonprofit organizations, and even President Obama to tell them their stories.

Their hope is that their journey will shed light on the issues that are happening in Honduras and hopefully make a difference. They have named their group “Todo es Possible,” or “Anything is Possible.” José and all the other men of the group believe change for their country is possible, and they want to make it happen.

This group of Honduran men who spoke to Bread staff put a human face on the issue that staff have been working with for many months. Especially since last summer, when there was a spike of immigrants, mainly children, from three Central American countries, including Honduras, Bread has been focused on immigration as it relates to hunger. Bread members flooded Congress with letters, emails, and phone calls asking the U.S. government to help improve conditions – hunger, poverty, and violence – that force people to leave their home countries in the first place.

“It is very difficult, but all we want to do is prevent more tragedy,” Jose said. “I can’t expect my arm to grow back; that is impossible. But I can try to help change the world to make it a better place”.

Stefanie Casdorph is a summer intern in the communications department at Bread for the World.

Photo: A group of Honduran men visit Bread for the World and share their harrowing stories of coming to the United States in search of a better life. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World

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