The documentary Which Way Home premieres on HBO tonight at 9pm ET. The film follows unaccompanied migrant children from Latin America as they endure harrowing conditions on a freight train to come to the U.S. to be with their parents.
Exploitation by smugglers. Dehydration in the desert. The danger of being struck by trains. These are just a few of the dangers facing thousands of children from Latin America who travel great distances on top of freight trains to get to the United States. This film looks at the personal side of immigration through the eyes of several of these unaccompanied migrant children as they embark on a treacherous journey aboard a freight train they call “The Beast.” Along the way, their stories of hope, courage, disappointment and sorrow are revealed as they endeavor to make it to the land of opportunity.
Here's just a few of the children you'll meet:
- Fito, 13-year-old Honduran whose mother abandoned him when he was very young, lives with his impoverished grandmother, who has a job making cigars. He is traveling to the U.S. to look for work and hopes to be adopted.
- Jose, a nine-year-old Salvadoran, lives with his aunt, and has not seen his mother Rosa since she left to work in the U.S. three years ago. Hoping to live with her, he traveled through Mexico on a bus with a smuggler. When Mexican immigration officials boarded the bus, the smuggler abandoned Jose, who was then taken to a detention center.
- Jairo is a 14-year-old Mexican whose father never accepted him. He has lived on the streets of Chiapas since his mother was killed a year ago. Schooling is very important to him, but he cannot currently afford to continue his education. Jairo has decided to go to Laredo, Texas to find employment, and then return to Mexico with money to hire a tutor.
The film also includes interviews with the families of two youths who didn't survive the journey: the bodies of 13-year-old Eloy and his 16-year-old cousin Rosario were found in the desert. Their deaths underscore the extremely dangerous journey taken by these often-invisible children, who are making adult decisions to change their lives.
How can this happen?
Central American children making the journey to the United States must first cross the Guatemala-Mexico border. Although Mexican companies prohibit riders on freight trains, thousands board them anyway, making the rule impossible to enforce.
If after watching the film, you would like to donate to a shelter that comforts and aids migrants, here is the film's recommended list.