Teargassed Caravan Migrant Mother Is Taking Her Five Kids to Reunite With Their Father in US

The photographer who took the now iconic photo of a caravan migrant Honduran mother and her children fleeing tear gas near the U.S. – Mexico border crossing at San Ysidro, California and Tijuana on Sunday says the woman is traveling with her five children to reunite with their father who is already in the U.S., in Louisiana.

This fact not being reported in the numerous sympathetic articles published Monday about the mother, Maria Meza (aka Maria Lila Meza Castro), save for a buried mention by the Washington Post. The Post did a profile on the Reuters photographer who took the photo, Kim Kyung-Hoon, and included that Kim said he was told by a Reuters official that Meza was trying to reunite with her children’s father in the U.S.

“The woman grips both her daughters, one with each hand, as they run away. One child is barefoot; the other is about to fall. Both wear only T-shirts and diapers.

“The woman looks back at the smoke from the tear gas they’re trying to escape. Behind them is wire fencing, a partial wall separating them from the United States, and dozens of other migrants, many of them children, also running.

“Standing just a few feet away with a mask on, Reuters photojournalist Kim Kyung-Hoon spots the woman, who is hard to miss in her bright purple and blue-green blouse bearing characters from the movie “Frozen.” He snaps a picture, capturing the look on her face as she frantically tries to drag her two small children away from the gas as it spreads.

…”Kim recalled seeing two men try to dismantle the wire fence. U.S. officials say some threw rocks and bottles at border officers, who then fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

“Then Kim saw the woman as she started running from the smoke, holding her 5-year-old twin daughters with both hands. Her teenage son was running next to her, Kim said. A Reuters spokeswoman confirmed that the woman had traveled from Honduras to Mexico with all of her five children.


…”Kim, who is Korean, does not speak Spanish and said he was able to ask the woman only where they were from. Later, a colleague was able to find the family, which had returned to the sports complex. Reuters learned that the woman had left Honduras to reunite with her children’s father, who is in the United States, Kim said.”

End Post excerpt.

Reuters published an interview with Meza that has no mention of her desire to reunite with her children’s father in the U.S.

“After traveling north from Honduras and spending a week in the Mexican border town of Tijuana, Maria Meza, 35, set out on Sunday with her five children to claim asylum at the U.S. border crossing. She and hundreds of other Central American migrants were blocked by Mexican police and staged a protest in front of the border, some rushing the U.S fence.

“Three tear gas canisters shot from the U.S. side landed around Meza and her children, who range in age from toddlers to teenagers, she said in an interview at a Tijuana migrant shelter.

“”The first thing I did was grab my children,” said Meza. A photo of her clutching the hands of twin five-year-old daughters Saira and Cheili, as her 13-year-old daughter Jamie runs alongside, has gone viral and sparked angry reactions from some lawmakers and charities.

“”I was scared, and I thought I was going to die with them because of the gas,” said Meza. Her young son James nearly fainted when a canister landed near him. Meza fell and struggled to get up amidst the gas. A young man gave her his hand and pulled her to her feet.

“”We never thought they were going to fire these bombs where there were children, because there were lots of children,” said Meza, sitting in view of the rusted-steel U.S. border fence. “It wasn’t right, they know we are human beings, the same as them,” said Meza.

…””I came here for one reason, and that’s because there is a lot of violence in Honduras,” said Meza, as her children played with empty tear gas canisters shot by the Border Patrol.

“”If they close the border I ask God that here in Tijuana, or in another country they open doors to us, to allow me to survive with my children,” said Meza.”

End Reuters excerpt.

Meza told Buzzfeed she is a single mother trying to find work to help her children. No mention of trying to reunite with her children’s father in the U.S.

Video of Buzzfeed interview below excerpt.

“Meza said she didn’t try to cross and was only looking across the border with other members of the caravan when the tear gas was launched.

“One of her daughters lost her sandals in the mud. She and her daughters couldn’t climb out of the concrete riverbed until a passing stranger pulled them up. Meza said one of her sons almost fainted from the tear gas, but recovered after she threw water on his face.

“The kids are scared of going near the site where Border Patrol agents fired the tear gas.

““I hope God will help me enter [the US] with these kids because we’re suffering,” she said, back at Tijuana’s Benito Juárez Stadium, where the caravan’s members are being housed. “I’m a single mother who wants to provide for my children.””

End Buzzfeed excerpt.

The Buzzfeed inteview is also notable because Meza does not make a case for asylum, instead she makes it clear she is seeking a better life in the U.S. for herself and her children.

NBC News reporter Gabe Gutierrez posted on Instagram that Meza told him she went to the border fence on Sunday to protest. No mention of trying to claim asylum. That came later in Gutierrez’ report on NBC Nightly News.

Gutierrez’s report for NBC Nightly News that aired Monday.

UPDATE: A later NBC report by Gutierrez included a mention by the Reuters photographer that Meza (spelled Mesa in this NBC article) is trying to get to Louisiana where the father is living.

“Kim said Mesa “was travelling with five children.”

“Their father lives in Louisiana and they are trying to reach him,” he said.”

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