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Local woman houses Honduran family seeking asylum


by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter

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Marianne Vaughan (gray shirt) is pictured here with members from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's office along with Francia Cruz-Amaya, Nathalia Guzman and Fernando Cruz-Amaya after being reunited in Manchester two weeks ago. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
October 03, 2018
TWIN MOUNTAIN — Two weeks ago in Manchester, a 12 year old girl from Honduras, Nathalia Guzman, was reunited with her family in New Hampshire.

Nathalia was separated from her family after President Donald Trump's administration implemented a "zero-tolerance" policy on border crossings. The young girl's aunt and cousin were allowed passage and have been staying in Twin Mountain with Marianne Vaughan of Honduras Hope. Nathalia and her uncle, Henrry Cruz-Amaya, were detained. Henrry was sent to a detention center in Georgia, and young Nathalia was sent to a detention center in Chicago.

The family of four had left Honduras for Mexico, then continued on to the United States seeking asylum. Nathalia went to live with her relatives after her mother was murdered in Honduras just over one year ago. Francia is handicapped and needs a wheelchair to move around. While in Honduras she had no access to crutches or any medical care due to the fact that social services do not exist for her.

The family traveled primarily by foot over more than 1,000 miles to reach the border. For the majority of the trek, Henrry carried Francia on his back. It was a long four months, but they finally arrived safely.

Many people seeking asylum from Honduras travel on top of trains; however, Henrry knew the dangers of doing so and wanted to keep his family alive. The amount of human trafficking is abundant. While in Mexico the family was robbed and lost all documentation they had from home, including proof that they were the rightful guardians of Nathalia. Since there was no paperwork, Nathalia could not stay with her aunt and cousin, and was processed as an unaccompanied minor. The family does not speak English, and comes from a village where homes are mud huts with dirt floors with no electricity.

When Francia and Fernando, her 13 year old son, were allowed to pass through the border, Francia called Bill Briggs, a man whom she had met years ago in Honduras. Briggs, of Littleton, is the founder and coordinator for Honduras Hope. Briggs arranged for the two to travel via bus from Texas to New Hampshire. Because they had no money the two had to make the four day trip without food.

Vaughan said that tracking down Nathalia was a long, brutal process. Francia and Henrry were not told where she was taken.

"We had to call hotlines, finally we were able to track her down in Chicago," Vaughan explained. "It's been a three month long process."

Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, along with Congresswoman Ann Kuster, all played an instrumental role in re-uniting Nathalia with her family. Honduras Hope is the reason this family is able to remain supported to include, food, clothes and lawyer's fees. Since Francia cannot work in the country yet, this organization has been a saving grace.

Currently, 13 year old Fernando and his cousin Nathalia are attending the Whitefield Elementary School. They are living in a world they never knew they thought they could. Fernando is playing soccer and loves every minute of it and the two are making friends despite the language barrier. They do have an ESL to assist with their schooling.

Vaughan said, "Everything to them is brand new. Having a home with electricity, riding in a car, having a bed to sleep in, it's all new, even having furniture. I had to show them how to cook on a stove and use the microwave. They thought the freezer and the refrigerator were the same thing. It's things we take for granted that you wouldn't think about."

Vaughan said the family loves it here, but does cook a lot of their own food. Fernando made a comment just the other night that they are used to cooking with rocks and fire.

Briggs added, "Right now, they of course feel isolated from their family. When you know you can't ever go back to your homeland you will feel some degree of isolation."

Briggs noted that smartphones do make things easier as far as communication goes.

Although Henrry is still being detained, lawyers for Honduras Hope are working to get him released.

"Without Honduras Hope and considerable financial resources, they would have been sent back right away," Briggs said. "I'm not sure what happens to people who don't have a connection."

The family is able to communicate with Henrry via phone, and Briggs, through Honduras Hope, sends him money to make the phone calls.

Both Vaughan and Briggs noted that the entire community has been extremely supportive including everyone at the Whitefield Elementary School.

Briggs explained a bit about Honduras: "Honduras is an extremely poor country. It is one of the most violent in the world. There is a lot of corruption in the politics and a lot of collusion between unsavory groups of people such as gangs with those who are elected."

Briggs added, "In fact, it is very difficult to be elected if you didn't have some degree of cooperation with the street, so to speak."

While on mission trips, Honduras Hope groups do not go to certain areas so as to avoid drug cartel movement.

"Honduran people are very family oriented and take care of each other," Briggs continued. "It's just an extremely poor, violent country."

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