MATAMOROS – Throughout the weeks it took Yeison and Niko emigrate from Venezuela towards the U.S., they navigated harmful jungles and over a lifeless physique. The 2 are so inseparable that Yeison offered his cellphone so each had sufficient bus cash to proceed their journey.
Now as Yeison prepares to lastly enter the U.S., it is probably he should go away Niko behind.
That is as a result of Niko is a squirrel.
The 23-year-old man and his pet squirrel are an uncommon however blunt reflection of the emotional decisions migrants make over what to take — and what to go away behind — as they embark on the damaging journey north. Yeison, who declined to present his final identify as a result of he fears for his household’s security in Venezuela, stated going with out Niko was out of the query. However Mexico is the place they could be pressured to half methods.
Yeison, who’s amongst hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing political and financial unrest again dwelling, secured an appointment for Saturday to current himself on the border to hunt entry to the U.S. and request asylum. Animals are typically not allowed to cross the border.
“It would practically be like starting with nothing, without Niko,” Yeison stated.
Many who set off on the roughly 3,000-mile (4,800-kilometer) journey to the U.S. achieve this with solely what they will carry and their family members. For Yeison, that was a squirrel with a black stripe and flecks of white hair, who made the lengthy journey nesting in a pink knit cap stuffed inside a backpack.
For six months, Yeison and Niko lived in a tent at an encampment with lots of of different migrants in Matamoros. The location is throughout from the Texas border metropolis of Brownsville, which is lots of of miles east of Eagle Go and never experiencing the identical dramatic enhance in migrants that prompted the mayor to subject an emergency declaration this previous week.
On a latest day, Niko crawled over Yeison’s shoulders and stayed shut whereas darting across the tent. Likelihood is slim Yeison can take Niko throughout the border, however volunteers on the encampment aren’t giving up.
Gladys Cañas, the director of a nongovernmental group, Ayudándoles A Triunfar, stated she has encountered different migrants who wished to cross with their pets — cats, canine and even a rabbit as soon as. However till now, by no means a squirrel.
Cañas helped join Yeison with a veterinarian to doc Niko’s vaccinations to supply to frame brokers. She is hopeful they’ll enable the squirrel to cross, whether or not with Yeison or with a volunteer.
“There’s a connection between him and the squirrel, so much that he preferred to bring it with him than leave the squirrel behind with family in Venezuela and face the dangers that come with the migrant journey. They gave each other courage,” she stated.
Yeison stated he discovered the squirrel after practically stepping on him in the future in Venezuela. The squirrel gave the impression to be newly born and Yeison took him dwelling, the place he named him Niko and members of the family fed him yogurt. The choosy squirrel, Yeison stated, prefers nibbling on pine timber and is fed tomatoes and mangoes, even in occasions when meals is tough to return by.
At first, Yeison stated he sought work in Colombia. He returned to discover a free pine splinter lodged in Niko’s eye and resolved after that to take the squirrel with him on the following journey to the U.S.
Like hundreds of migrants, Yeison made the journey by the perilous jungle referred to as the Darien Hole, the place he stated he discovered the physique of a person beneath some blankets. He stated he hid Niko in a backpack after they boarded buses and crossed by checkpoint inspections in Mexico. However one time, Yieson stated, a bus driver found the squirrel and made him pay additional to maintain the animal on board. Yeison stated he offered his cellphone for $35 to cowl the fee.
As soon as they reached the encampment in Matamoros, the pair settled right into a routine. Yeison makes cash slicing hair by his tent and infrequently falls asleep sharing the identical pillow with Niko at night time.
He was bracing for a separation.
“I don’t need for him to be separated from me, as a result of I do know that we’d get heartsick. I’m certain of that,” Yeison stated. “And if he doesn’t get sick, I hope he gets to be happy. And that he never forgets my face.”
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