The agony and desperation are written all over the migrants’ faces. But what you can’t see is how bad their homelands really are.
Why would a caravan of migrants spend a month trekking across several countries, battling hunger, filth and illness, when their chances of getting US asylum are so slim?
Here’s a snapshot of the conditions in some of the countries they’re fleeing:
Gross national income, per capita: $2,150
Population below poverty line: 29.6%
Political strife or other conditions: Violence has plagued Honduras for years, and the country now has the world’s highest murder rate, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Widespread gang violence fuels instability and suffering. Criminals have extorted Hondurans into paying an arbitrary “war tax” for their survival, and those who can’t pay often are killed.
“There are no jobs, no justice, no laws in Honduras,” said 32-year-old Karen Gallo, who sought asylum this year with a caravan of migrants.
Some of those migrants were transgender people who faced persecution in Honduras. Nikolle Contreras said she suffered “discrimination because of my sexuality, lack of work, discrimination within my own family for being gay and worse, for being a trans person.”
Gross national income, per capita: $3,920
Population below poverty line: 38.2%
Life in El Salvador: “El Salvador is beset by one of the world’s highest homicide rates and pervasive criminal gangs,” the CIA World Factbook says.
One 38-year-old migrant said she understands not everyone would welcome her to the United States.
“But I don’t have an option,” she told CNN. “If I stay in El Salvador, I’m going to be killed.”
In recent decades, poor economic conditions and natural disasters also have contributed to Salvadorans fleeing to the United States.
Population below poverty line: 59.3%
Political strife or other conditions: “Guatemalans have a history of emigrating legally and illegally to Mexico, the United States and Canada because of a lack of economic opportunity, political instability, and natural disasters,” the CIA World Factbook says.
“Guatemalans have a history of emigrating legally and illegally to Mexico, the United States and Canada because of a lack of economic opportunity, political instability and natural disasters.”
More than half of the country lives in poverty, and 23% lives in extreme poverty – meaning people live on less than $1.25 a day.
CNN’s Leyla Santiago, Khushbu Shah and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.