From Honduras to the U.S. border — in a wheelchair

FAN Editor

For a migrant named Walter, the journey from his home country of Honduras to refuge in the United States took longer than most. That’s because Walter made the trip in a wheelchair.

As he made his way more than 1,500 miles from his hometown, with his wife and two children in tow, the family hitched rides. At some points, strangers carried him on their backs; at others, his wife pushed his wheelchair along for miles. After so much traveling, the chair broke, and Walter had to tie it together using socks.

When 60 Minutes met the family just after they crossed the border into McAllen, Texas, they had been traveling for a month. Correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi wanted to know what pushed them to make the trip.

Walter and his two kids, ages 10 and 14

The answer had a lot to do with the same reason Walter now relies on his wheelchair. A few years ago, he said, a Honduran gang sent him a bullet in an envelope — a not-so-veiled threat that they demanded money.

“I kept on working because I needed the money, and then they shot me because I didn’t pay,” Walter told Alfonsi through a translator. “And they left me for dead.”

Gangs in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala often make their profit from extortion, which is one of the reasons migrants from these three Central American countries now make up a large percentage of those fleeing to the U.S.

On top of the threat of violence, Walter told Alfonsi he had been struggling to afford food for his family.

This week on 60 Minutes, Alfonsi visits the Mexican border, where last month, a record 53,000 people crossed into the United States, all in family groups. Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan told Alfonsi so many migrants are coming because they know they will be released into the U.S. when they get to the border.  

A record 53,000 people crossed into the United States’ southern border last month.

After border patrol let Walter and his family go, they flew to the east coast to stay with relatives. But that was just the beginning of another excursion — the legal one. The family will have to appear in court and apply for asylum status.

In the meantime, Walter admitted the trip has been difficult.

“The truth is that we all make the journey because we have to,” he said. “Honestly, it’s really hard. No one wants to leave their own country.”  

The video above was produced by Brit McCandless Farmer and Sarah Shafer Prediger. It was edited by Sarah Shafer Prediger.   

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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