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I’ve spent three weeks in the Migrant Resource Center watching volunteers counsel migrants through the “what next?” question. After journeying to the border, after attempting to cross into the U.S. illegally, after being detained by U.S. immigration and returned, is it time for them to head home or time to head back into the desert?
For migrants like Angel, a free bus ticket home (one of the services offered by the Mexican government) helped him decide to make the return journey south.
I’ve watched dozens of migrants embark on this journey home, but this is the first time I’ve seen what it looks like to arrive. During our two day bus journey together, Angel told me about his parents, his siblings and his nieces and nephew. I could tell by the way he lit up while talking about them that he was excited to go home.
We stopped in front of a faded pink wall, painted with an advertisement for fresh tortillas. Like everything else on the street, it was closed up for the night.
“Aquí?” I asked Angel, hopeful after a long walk uphill through the winding alleyways of Mexico City.
“Aquí,” he said, his gaze fixed on the second story window.
His eyes didn’t waver as he set down my heavy backpack at his feet. He raised his hands to his mouth and let out a series of shrill, distinct whistles. I raised my eyes to the same window just in time to see a round-faced woman cautiously peel back one of the curtains.
“Did you tell her you were coming?” I asked.
He looked sideways at me with a sheepish grin, “No.”
We looked back at the window to watch the now beaming woman struggle against the window latch with urgency and push back the panes of dirty glass.
“Angel?!” she gasped.
She hurled the house keys at us with so much enthusiasm that we barely jumped out the way in time. Angel collected them from the pavement, and we made our way up the cement staircase, ducking under clothes lines.
We stepped into the orange kitchen where Angel’s parents stood waiting. I held my breath and looked from Angel to his mom and dad, both frozen in their corner of the room, watching their son walk back through the door.
I hadn’t thought about what their reaction might be to his return. How did they feel? Were they upset? Had they been counting on Angel finding work in the U.S.?
His parents looked him up and down, inspecting him for marks from his journey, then rushed forward and wrapped Angel in a crushing hug. After two weeks of uncertainty, their son was home—he wasn’t wandering through a desert somewhere or locked up in a foreign detention center. He was home.
I pretended not to notice as Angel’s mom turned away to wipe her tears. The homecoming may not have been expected, but it was most welcomed.
I felt encouraged knowing Angel was returning to this place to reclaim his role as a son, brother and uncle. I only hope the rest of our brother and sister migrants returning home are walking into homes like Angel’s home- where no matter how far they’ve wandered and no matter what they have or haven’t accomplished, they have an irreplaceable value to a family and community somewhere.
About the Author: Laura is a journalism fellow with World Next Door. She graduated from the University of Arizona, Tucson with a degree in Animal Sciences and a minor in Spanish. She is constantly learning, making friends, dancing, and trying to understand her role in alleviating the suffering of others. Laura also attracts a lot of awkward situations.