DEL RIO, Texas (NewsNation Now) — Jackeline has traveled for three years, leaving behind her husband and children in Cuba — scaling mountain ranges in Columbia to come to the United States.
She’s even lost her fingernails, one completely, from climbing, but she says crossing the U.S.-Mexico border was easy.
“I crossed the river, and it wasn’t so hard because the water wasn’t deep,” Jackeline explained. “And when we arrived, there were officials, so we just turned ourselves in.”
Jackeline is one of the thousands of migrants who’ve traveled from Central America and South America to Del Rio, Texas.
Their journey into Texas oftentimes begins with a border patrol drop-off, then a bus carts families to a city center in Del Rio; many of them arrive fatigued. On Thursday, a group of Venezuelan fathers was headed to Miami; several of them said they’d been traveling for two or three days.
They told NewsNation they waited for President Joe Biden to take office before carrying their babies across the Rio Grande.
“In Venezuela, it’s difficult to provide because there’s no quality of life … and you have to pay the government to work there. If you don’t pay them, they’ll kill you,” one father said.
The Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition welcomes migrants, providing them a place to call their loved ones and secure bus and plane tickets to continue on their journey. The coalition said migrants must pay for their tickets themselves.
Gail Phares traveled from North Carolina to help meet the need in Del Rio. The 81-year-old Venezuelan woman said she sold everything she had to make the trip to Texas.
“Read the gospel … these are our brothers and sisters. They’re not coming because they want to, they don’t want to leave their families and their land, but they’re desperate,” Phares said.
For many migrants, the destination is worth the journey.
When asked what the United States meant, Jackeline replied, “To me, it means everything. To me, it’s everything, and you could even say it means my life. Being able to smile. It means a lot … here I am free.”