FOR 18 YEARS, Ángel Pérez’s parcel sat barren. His remote village in southern Mexico offered no employment, and his only resource—his land—had been depleted by decades of overuse. When his son Manolo grew old enough, Manolo emigrated north to find work, following the footsteps of half the community and leaving his father behind. Desperation led Ángel to drink. Bottle in hand, he stared down his two options: leave his home, his community, and his land, or resign himself to a life of scarcity. (Ángel and Manolo are pseu-donyms used for privacy reasons.)
In 2014, a surge of Central American refugees streamed north through Mexico. They traveled under the stars through drug cartel territory, slipped past human traffickers, and arrived at the U.S. border pleading for sanctuary.