They crossed the Rio Grande into the United States without papers and clutching their young children. Now, thousands of Central American immigrants face myriad challenges including finding work and threats of deportation, all without speaking any English.

A month after meeting three undocumented families in Texas, AFP caught up with them as they adjust to their new lives near New York. They all said life in the United States is harder than they imagined but that it is much worse in Honduras or Guatemala.

Valeriano, a Guatemalan, quickly found work cleaning yards in Hartford, Connecticut. He must save to pay moneylenders and family members the $ 10,000 he was charged by smugglers, a fortune for this 34-year-old farmer.

He and his family first fled from Guatemala to Belize after they were chased by a drug cartel that killed his brother and threatened Valeriano with death. After the traffickers followed him there, he decided to seek asylum in America with one of his four children, seven-year-old Arnold.

He can’t talk about his family left behind in Belize without crying, knowing that he may never see them again.

“I start thinking, why did I come? And then I remember that if I hadn’t they would have killed me, the kids would be alone, and then it’s more difficult for them,” he says with tears in his eyes.

Valeriano earns $ 14.50 an hour and thinks it will take him a year to pay off his debts. He must also send money to his family and pay for the small basement where he lives with his son, sister, brother-in-law and niece. The five sleep in two beds separated by a sheet.

Family separations

“It’s hard here, but it’s harder in my home country,” he says.

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