Humberto, the 17-year-old catracho that wants to be a truck mechanic

Today I met Humberto. He’s a 17-year-old slim and tall-ish catracho (Honduran) When we met, he was wearing his only valuable possessions: button-up shirt, slacks and a pair of simple, black leather shoes. Somebody had lent him a tie, which he ended up loosening later in the day, taking care to keep the knot just in case.

Less than a week ago, he was about to be detained and deported back to Honduras. The first personal feeling he shared with me was: “a week ago I was really scared that I would have to go back there” But, at the same time, he was very optimistic about the process. He praised Linda, his pro bono lawyer, as if she was a law conqueror, a savior. And as I was translating forms, questions and affidavit contents for him, I could definitely see and share Linda’s passion, too.

A year ago, Humberto crossed the dangerous USA-Mexico border with another catracho that he met in Mexico. They spent more than a month travelling, until they were picked up by law enforcement in Arizona. He was relocated and released to foster care. Before the slacks, the shirt and the shoes, his only possessions during winter were shorts and a ragged tee. While in foster care, he has been studying, preparing for entering high school in the USA, which will happen the next week.

Not so long ago, Humberto was in one of his many court visits. In this one, the judge had to determine whether Humberto was the subject of abuse back in Honduras or whether his family could be able to take care of him there. Humberto does not know the name of his father, and he can’t remember when his mother’s birthday is. He generally can’t remember anything that happened in his life before the age of 9. The courts have found not only that he suffered abuse but also that Humberto was a trafficking victim.

Back in Tegucigalpa, Humberto worked for about 5 years as a mechanic. He considers himself an specialist in large engines: buses, trucks and tractors. He laughs when he thinks that in the USA he would have to touch smaller, “normal” cars as a mechanic when/if he starts working. He doesn’t want to go back, but he isn’t scared of the future. He knows he might face detention at an adult center, with the inherent risks, and deportation. But he focuses on the opportunities. If he has the opportunity, he wants to make it right with education and go back to mechanics. Maybe his own business, he says. He is advancing ast towards his language skills. And he is aware that people are helping him, and he’s very grateful about it.

In the future, I might have to translate for him again. This time in a court, to dismiss future cases because he might secure legal status by then. Perhaps by that time he would have had a chance with a Cummins engine – or, well, maybe a Civic.


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