None of the families have a lawyer or a clear idea of how to survive, let alone feed their families back home in Afghanistan. Most began writing desperate messages to migrant aid organizations, but the groups were overwhelmed, and Afghans rarely heard back.
Mozhgan’s family faced a different kind of horror: He was gone.
He climbed the first border fence, then spent three nights between the walls. In the end, immigration officials took his family into detention – but he and an older brother, who were over 18, were treated as single adults and detained, while the rest of the family was released in California.
They flee Afghanistan together and spend months on foot through unforgiving terrain, dodging bandits and dodging corrupt police officers – only to be separated, without contact, from the country where they hope to find.
His mother, Anisa, was confused, said Mozhgan’s father, Abdul. “We may never see them again,” he recalled saying.
Their children were released about a week later and reunited with the family.
Taiba keeps moving. In early May, an aid group in New York offered a place in a shelter and the family headed east, uncertain. Without asylum, they face a life in the shadows, like millions of other undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Her husband always believed that Darién was the most difficult part of the journey.
“But when I came out of the forest, we saw, ‘No,'” he said. “The difficulties are endless.”
Federico Rios contributed reporting from Brazil, Mexico and the Darién Gap, and Ruhullah Khapalwak from Vancouver.