World News

8-year-old girl clings to her mom as they talk about fears of separation

Posted June 21, 2018 2:46 p.m. EDT

— Kensi Hernandez is 8 years old and has dreams of being a doctor. She's quiet and shy, fidgeting with her bracelets as she talks.

But there's also fear in her dark brown eyes.

In her native Honduras, gangs threatened to kill her, she says.

Street thugs target and kill children to pressure and extort their parents, according to agencies and reports. Officials are powerless or not interested in stopping the violence.

For Kensi's mother, Ana Hernandez, the threat was the final straw. She grabbed some clothes, took her daughter and ran, she says.

They made it out of Honduras, walked and rode buses through Guatemala and then crossed the Suchiate River into Mexico, with plans to continue to the United States.

But for Kensi, there was more fear ahead.

A few days ago, her mom explained to her that they could be separated by US officials. She'd seen videos of what had been happening to families, including those who wanted to claim asylum.

Even hearing her mother talk about it now seems to scare Kensi. She hugs her mom, clinging to her.

And while President Trump has ordered an end to his administration's policy of separating children from their parents if they are caught crossing the border without permission, the fear remains.

For now, Kensi and Ana Hernandez say they plan to stay in Mexico rather than continue north, but they hope to eventually reach a friend in the state of Georgia.

"It's just all so confusing, I don't know what to do," said Hernandez, 34, who says she is four months pregnant.

They are staying in a shelter for migrants in the southern Mexican border town of Tapachula, sleeping together in one bed.

As other migrant children giggle and kick a soccer ball around, confusion reigns among the adults.

Marjory Flores, 24, cries as she describes how she is now alone with her three children after leaving everything and everyone else she has in Honduras.

She doesn't know if she will continue her journey to the United States, where she says she wants to work to give her children a chance to get an education and a better life. She heard the heartbreaking recordings of separated children crying out for their mami and papi and was saddened by them.

But she knows she cannot go back.

"They would kill us."