December 12, 2018 / 3:32 PM / 10 months ago

New mother on migrant caravan hopes Trump's heart softens

TIJUANA, Mexico (Reuters) - Erly Marcial of Honduras joined the United States-bound migrant caravan with her family even though the 21-year-old was nearly eight months pregnant. She gave birth to a healthy baby on the grueling trail and is now hoping for another miracle.

She and her family are stuck in Tijuana, Mexico, at the doorstep of the United States, with President Donald Trump vowing to keep the migrants out.

“If only God would soften his heart,” she said of Trump. “Because he has a heart of flesh and blood, not of stone.”

Thanks to the generosity of strangers in her path, plus the intervention of Mexican healthcare workers and the Honduran consulate in Mexico City, Marcial completed the more than 2,800-mile (4,500-km) journey over several weeks, sometimes walking in rubber sandals for hours with a bulging belly.

She and her family have started on the long path to seeking asylum but it could be months before they get their first interview with U.S. officials.

The United States has granted only 13.8 percent of Honduran asylum claims in the latest fiscal year compared to 20.9 percent for asylum seekers worldwide, according to Justice Department data.

If denied, Marcial and her husband, Alvin Reyes, 39, said they would try to build a life in Mexico and possibly in Tijuana, where they are living in a spartan church dormitory whose bunk beds are luxurious compared to the camps where thousands of other migrants from the caravan sleep in tents on hard ground.

Reyes could not make a living as a cobbler in the town of Sabá in Honduras, so they decided to join the caravan, usually lagging behind while pushing a baby carriage with their 2-year-old son David and their 6-year-old daughter María.

Alvin Jr. was born with a shock of dark hair in a hospital in Puebla, Mexico, on Nov. 12, about six weeks premature.

Slideshow (23 Images)

If they have any asylum claim, it would be related to violence in their hometown, where a shootout at the cantina near their house peppered their walls with bullet holes and killed a man whose body lay in a pool of blood at their doorstep, they said.

Marcial and Reyes said they were not home at the time, but were shaken and further motivated to abandon Honduras.

(Click on reut.rs/2LaMGpF to see a related photo essay)

Reporting by Daniel Trotta and Carlos Garcia; Editing by Bill Rigby

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