Asylum-seeking family says hard journey ‘worth it’

STORY: After setting out on a months-long journey from Guatemala to the United States in the spring, Dina Arenas and her family are now in Los Angeles.

The mother of two says crime, danger, and a lack of education in Guatemala forced her and her husband to travel north in search of a better life.

ARENAS: “Well, it was very hard, honestly, because you endured hunger, cold, and fatigue. But the truth is that it is worth it. It's worth it because it's going to be for a better future for them.”

They traveled from Guatemala mainly by foot and car - and arrived at the Tamaulipas, Mexico border.

Staying at a local border shelter, they secured an appointment through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection CBP One app.

Arenas says waiting was difficult.

“But yes, it is very hard because you see people sleeping on the street. One is walking and sees people lying down or suffering from hunger, very thirsty. There are people who stay behind because they really can't take it. But when you know your goals you keep fighting, right? With the little strength that one has left, you keep fighting, really. But it's hard.”

The family was able to reach Brownsville, Texas, where they stayed in a shelter.

Lacking financial resources, they had no other alternative but to accept an offer to be bussed for nearly two days from Texas to California.

The trip was part of the initial bus wave to the state under Texas Governor Greg Abbot's ‘Operation Lone Star.’

Arena’s husband Hember Paiz says a lack of food was the most difficult part of the trip.

“We did not have enough resources or the necessary resources to be able to give ourselves proper or adequate food, we could only afford food for us, maybe a plate of food and share it between the three of us. So, this was a little complicated.”

The first group of migrants bused from Texas to Los Angeles arrived in June.

Since then, the city has received 14 buses and aided over 600 asylum seekers, according to the Immigration Defenders Law Center.

After witnessing chaotic scenes in other cities, the L.A. Welcomes Collective, in coordination with the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles, have set up a model that has been working since the first bus arrived, says Jorge-Mario Cabrera from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights.

“We learned from experience. We didn't want to repeat the chaos and the drama in other cities.”

Cabrera says the Collective supplies arrivals with resources from medical care, legal representation, spiritual guidance and hot meals.

“You know what the number one thing that migrants tell us they want to do as soon as they get off the bus, other than have their first full meal, is they want to work. They want to be self-sufficient. They want to be able to contribute to their community and assist their families here and their families back home.”

Arenas is now in the process of obtaining a work permit authorization.