MATAMOROS – In the course of 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 bought his cellphone so each had sufficient bus cash to proceed their journey.
Now as Yeison prepares to lastly enter the U.S., it is possible 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 selections migrants make over what to take — and what to depart behind — as they embark on the harmful journey north. Yeison, who declined to provide his final title as a result of he fears for his household’s security in Venezuela, mentioned going with out Niko was out of the query. However Mexico is the place they is likely to be compelled to half methods.
Yeison, who’s amongst thousands and thousands of Venezuelans fleeing political and financial unrest again residence, 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 mentioned.
Many who set off on the roughly 3,000-mile (4,800-kilometer) journey to the U.S. achieve this with solely what they’ll 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 crimson 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 Cross and never experiencing the identical dramatic improve in migrants that prompted the mayor to situation an emergency declaration this previous week.
On a current 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, mentioned she has encountered different migrants who needed 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 mentioned.
Yeison mentioned he discovered the squirrel after practically stepping on him someday in Venezuela. The squirrel seemed to be newly born and Yeison took him residence, the place he named him Niko and members of the family fed him yogurt. The choosy squirrel, Yeison mentioned, prefers nibbling on pine timber and is fed tomatoes and mangoes, even in occasions when meals is difficult to return by.
At first, Yeison mentioned 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 subsequent journey to the U.S.
Like hundreds of migrants, Yeison made the journey by means of the perilous jungle often known as the Darien Hole, the place he mentioned he discovered the physique of a person beneath some blankets. He mentioned he hid Niko in a backpack after they boarded buses and crossed by means of checkpoint inspections in Mexico. However one time, Yieson mentioned, a bus driver found the squirrel and made him pay further to maintain the animal on board. Yeison mentioned he bought his cellphone for $35 to cowl the associated 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 sometimes 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 mentioned. “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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