Editor’s note: This is the second follow-up to our two-part series, “Life After Remain in Mexico,” documenting the two-year journey of one of the first families sent back across the border under the Migrant Protection Protocols program, Read and watch Part 1: Honduran family’s harrowing journey to U.S., encampment in Mexico; and Part 2: A family’s struggles in America ahead of immigration court hearings.
HOUSTON, Texas (Border Report) — The 2-page document is creased, splattered with food and has been read over and over again.
Carolina Carranza Silva, 24, shook her head as she showed the papers to Border Report on Thursday, the same day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Biden administration could end the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, commonly referred to as “Remain in Mexico.”
For Carolina, her common-law husband, Jose Paguada-Escobar, and their 5-year-old daughter Emily, the high court’s decision possibly came too late to help them.
The papers in Carolina’s hands are court removal documents issued by a Houston judge, ordering Carolina and her family to be deported back to their Honduran homeland.
The family was one of the first to be placed in the MPP program after crossing the Rio Grande on a raft into the South Texas border town of Hidalgo one night in August 2019.
Under MPP, which the Trump administration started to reduce illegal immigration into the Southwest border from Mexico, the family ended up living on the streets of Matamoros, Mexico, for nearly four months.
Now, they’ve been placed in removal proceedings by the Executive Office for Immigration Review after missing a mandatory immigration court hearing in February.
If arrested by U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement officers they will likely be sent back to Honduras.
But Carolina vows she is staying and said they will have to find and catch them first.
“I’m not scared,” she said in Spanish. “Only God knows what is in store for us. Only God knows what is planned.”
Border Report agreed not to disclose their location, other than it’s in the Houston area, and Carolina requested that no photos or videos be taken on Thursday.
She said she knew the risks when they decided not to appear in immigration court in February. They made that decision after the father of another family from Honduras they know was deported from the courtroom and the mother was left alone with two children.
Carolina said she wants to stay in the United States and watch her daughter Isabella, who was born in Houston, learn English and go to school like Emily.
Carolina says the family has endured so much to get to this point and they’re not giving up hope now.
She and Jose and Emily were kidnapped twice in Mexico prior to crossing the Rio Grande near Hidalgo, Texas, in early August 2019.
Border Report met them on Aug. 22, 2019, 10 days after they had been sent back to Mexico under the then-new immigration policy.
At the time they didn’t even have a tent or a blanket and were sleeping on the concrete near the base of the Gateway International Bridge in the border town of Matamoros with a few dozen other migrant families who also had been sent back to Mexico.
When President Joe Biden took office he stopped the policy, but Texas and Missouri sued to have MPP restarted. On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Biden administration did not unlawfully terminate the program, and that sets the stage for the program to be formally ended.
Carolina wasn’t aware of what was happening in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
She was busy caring for her American-born daughter Isabella, who this week turned 2.
Pink balloons with butterflies decorated the walls of their meager apartment. A table decorated with a “Happy Birthday” theme sat in another room. And Carolina said she was putting her faith in God to see the family through.
Domingo Garcia, a Houston lawyer who is the national president of LULAC, said asylum-seekers like Carolina need legal representation and they need to be fully aware of the ramifications of not showing up for court, as well as their rights.
“The whole family could be sent back after that ordeal that they had living almost homeless on the border and then being incarcerated in the United States and then not really having their, hearing or having an attorney represent them,” Garcia said. “That’s just kind of … it seems like tragedy after tragedy and for that child to be sent back to Honduras with the violence and the poverty is almost like a death sentence.”
Garcia told Border Report that the Supreme Court made the right decision to end MPP and he hopes that Congress will enact meaningful immigration reform to end the suffering of migrants on the border.
“It’s a very important victory for the humanitarian crisis and those immigrants who are trying to cross legally into the United States by asking for political asylum and asking for their day in court,” Garcia said. “These are families who are just looking for the American dream and an opportunity to present their case to an immigration judge.”
At least 71,000 migrants were put in MPP, and another 5,114 were added since December after a lower court ordered the Biden administration to restart the program, according to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonprofit from Syracuse University that tracks immigration cases.
“After several years now of MPP’s damaging effects on the asylum process, the Supreme Court’s ruling appears to allow the government to wind down the program,” TRAC researcher Austin Kocher told Border Report.
“TRAC finds that migrants in MPP rarely found an attorney and even more rarely were granted asylum. The Court’s decision does not, however, say what will happen to the thousands of asylum seekers currently in the program so the MPP saga is far from over,” Kocher said.
Carolina said they could not afford an attorney.
Jose works as a roofer. She was working as a janitor in a mall, but now she stays home with her two girls.
And Thursday she said there might be another baby on the way for her to also care for. And she says she plans to raise them in America.