One asylum-seeker says he was warned of Trump’s harsh border policies before he crossed – but he came anyway, because Honduras was too dangerous for him to stay

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  • A Honduran asylum-seeker said he was warned about the Trump administration’s harsh border policies before he crossed with his young son last week – but he came anyway.
  • José told Business Insider he had no choice. Three of his brothers have already been killed in Honduras, and he said the police threatened him, too.
  • José’s story raises questions about the effectiveness of the government’s now-halted “zero tolerance” policy, which according to some officials was intended to deter illegal immigration.

MCALLEN, TEXAS – José had been warned about the “zero tolerance” policy that had separated thousands of families before he and his young son approached the US-Mexico border last week.

But he felt he didn’t have a choice. He had to cross.

José, who asked to be identified only by his first name, said he and his son traveled by bus, truck, and boat for six days to reach Texas. They fled Honduras, a Central American country where rampant gang violence has prompted tens of thousands of citizens to seek asylum elsewhere.

Three of José’s brothers have already been killed, he said, and he feared he might be next.

“There’s no security, period,” José said. “It’s all driven by bribes, there’s no security, and bribes are the only thing they take seriously in that country.”

He spoke with Business Insider through a translator on Sunday, just days after his crossing. He and his son had just arrived at the Catholic Charities respite center in McAllen, where he thanked God that President Donald Trump had halted the family separations last Wednesday – just in the nick of time.

Business Insider/Daniel BrownJose, left, and his young son, right, sought asylum in the United States last week after making the dangerous trek from Honduras.

“By the time I arrived, Donald Trump had a change of heart and decided to allow children to continue to stay with their parents, so I was able to stay with my child,” José said.

José’s dilemma, and his choice to cross despite the possibility of being separated from his son, raises a key question about the Trump administration’s harsh border-enforcement policies: How effective are they in deterring asylum-seekers from illegally crossing the US-Mexico border.

Though the Trump administration has often contradicted itself on the intent behind the “zero tolerance” policy, several top officials have openly said the family separations were meant to deter illegal immigration.

John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, said in May that the policy could be a “strong deterrent,” and Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a similar warning about the separations: “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”

But it’s still unclear whether the “zero tolerance” policy actually had Kelly and Sessions’ desired effect on migrants. No immediate drop in illegal border-crossing was apparent in May – the only full month the policy was in place – according to Customs and Border Protection data.

The agency said it made 51,912 arrests at the US-Mexico border in May, up from 50,924 in April.

But a CBP estimate for June’s arrest numbers project a slight drop. Just 37,000 arrests at the border are expected for the month, Politico reported on Tuesday, citing a Homeland Security official.

There’s no doubt in José’s mind that he made the correct choice in seeking safety in the US. He knew his journey and his upcoming asylum case would be tough, but he feels welcome and happy in his new country.

“My son has been taken care of; I’ve felt welcome. At the center I’ve been fed, I’ve been given vitamins and medicine. I’m just thankful to be here in America,” he said.

Michelle Mark contributed reporting from New York.

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