Miguel and Clara: Families and Our Immigration System

When university journalism student Miguel faced threats in his homeland of Honduras, he fled north with his wife, Clara, pregnant with their first child. Upon their arrival in Nogales, Sonora, Paloma was born, but though the family was together for her birth—and later, for the happy occasion of her baptism at the KBI!—separation and uncertainty await as they seek asylum.

After months of bus rides heading north from their native Honduras—including weeks of detention in southern Mexico by immigration authorities there—Miguel and Clara reached both the culmination of their journey and Clara’s pregnancy. Her water broke as she departed the bus in Nogales, Sonora, and their daughter, Paloma, was born in a local hospital. Hearing about available migrant resources nearby, Miguel and Clara sought the help of the KBI who arranged for their shelter and care as advocacy staff began researching the best ways to assist the family in seeking asylum in the U.S.

Six months earlier, Miguel was a journalism student in the Honduran capital city of Tegucigalpa, and with Clara only a few months into her pregnancy, both prepared for the arrival of their first child with the usual excitement of new parents. But as a student and journalist with a commitment to freedom of speech, Miguel was threatened by parties associated with both the university and local gangs. Though he filed a police report, local law enforcement could only offer one or two of days of protection. In a country with the highest homicide rate in the world—59 murders for every 100,000 people in 2016 compared to an international average of 6 per 100,000 or the U.S. rate of 4—this was as good as no assurance at all. Miguel and Clara packed and left, with the goal of seeking asylum in the U.S.

Their journey was interrupted early on when Mexican immigration authorities detained the couple, releasing them with the instruction to go back to Honduras. But to return to such life-threatening odds, and with a baby on the horizon, was unthinkable. They kept going, arriving in Nogales in early April, just in time for Paloma’s entry into the world. Two weeks later, before undertaking the next part of the journey with her parents, she was baptized at the comedor with the KBI’s Joanna Williams and her husband Matthew standing up as godparents. A full dining hall gathered to honor this first-ever occasion for the KBI with a Mass and a special meal of grilled chicken and pink cake.

Despite all the love, faith and support surrounding Paloma at the start of her life, she and her parents face an uncertain future as they navigate the U.S. asylum process. KBI advocates are keenly aware of the worrisome factors: (1) the separation of Clara and Paloma, who will stay with a sponsoring family or community, from Miguel who will be held in a detention facility; (2) the independent routing of their asylum cases which would be stronger if considered together, since their claim rests on a threat to Miguel; and (3) the great emotional pain and uncertainty that this young family must bear while apart. It is just such legal matters on which the KBI’s new legal fellow (sponsored in conjunction with the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project) can advise starting in August as well as providing representation for Clara and Miguel.

Like the other infants who have stayed at the KBI, Paloma fills the shelter and comedor with delight, and brings a sense of hope and promise to the migrants, volunteers, and staff. As the KBI works to help her family, as Clara marks her first Mother’s Day, as she and Miguel ready themselves for the uncertainties ahead, Paloma reminds all of us why family unity, human dignity, and compassionate immigration policy are the foundation of the KBI’s mission.

Standing up as godmother, the KBI’s Joanna Williams, cradles Paloma with (l. to r.) her husband and Paloma’s godfather Matthew and Paloma’s parents, Clara and Miguel.
Photo by Sister María Engracia Robles Robles, M.E.

Godparents Joanna and Matthew with baby Paloma at the post-baptism party.
Photo by Sister María Engracia Robles Robles, M.E.

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