photo: Mark Dipaola
In front of NBC Connecticut’s cameras, Carlos Ventura Escalante appears nonchalant as he fields a slew of questions from members of the New Haven news media outside the city’s Federal building.
He’s 17. He looks even younger, and the journey that brought him from the impoverished Guatemalan town of San Marcos to where he now stands had more danger than some experience in a lifetime.
But with a group of about 30 immigration activists-members of New Haven’s Unidad Latina en Accion, (ULA)- and his lawyer, Danielle Robinson Briand, standing behind him, he is calm and collected as he tells reporters about being shoved into a box car with no food and water as he train hopped his way across the Rio Grande, courtesy of a Coyote who is threatening to kill him if he does not pay off a $6,000 debt.
This is the leap of faith that migrants like Escalante take as they flee their war torn and impoverished countries and cross the border to be greeted by the armed citizen border patrol blockades grabbing headlines from California andTexas Governor Rick Perry. But for Escalante, that leap of faith has been more like a treacherous climb.
For him, it starts in San Marcos, where mining companies have contaminated the water supply.
“There’s no water,” Escalante tells reporters through Jasmin Rodriguez, an activist who translates. “Many children are starving.”
Then there’s the gangs-namely El Maras, which tried to force him to join. El Maras threatened to kill him and his brother if he did not run drugs for them. Escalante chose instead to flee to the United States. He arrived in New Haven about six months ago. His brother is here as well, and is helping him to repay his debt to the Coyote.