This report has been updated.
IRVING —In the crowded lobby of the Honduran consulate in Irving, a 5-month-old Farris sleeps quietly in his infant carrier as news hits social media that President Donald Trump won't separate children from parents apprehended for crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Almost a month ago, he was strapped to a tire and pulled across the Rio Grande by his 35-year-old father, who was fleeing Honduran gangs that had already killed his two brothers.
His father, Elvis Rodriguez, is seeking asylum.
"The problem is if they send us back to Honduras, we run the risk of us getting killed," said Rodriguez, who wears an electronic monitoring device on his ankle so the U.S. government can track him as his case meanders through the U.S. immigration system.
The baby's 6-year-old brother, Justin, is at a shelter in Arizona for migrant children. His mother, Jensey Rodriguez, is in a detention center in Laredo. The family was separated after gangs attacked them in northern Mexico before they could reach Brownsville.
This week, Elvis Rodriguez was at the consulate in Irving seeking help to get his son out of the Arizona shelter.
"We want to fix our immigration status," the father said as he rocked his baby and tears begin to pool in his eyes.
Central Americans — from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — seeking safety from gangs have been caught in the middle of Trump's zero tolerance policy and the administration's shifting rules for asylum.
“These are not folks who come because America’s streets are paved in gold," said Dallas immigration attorney and asylum expert Paul Zoltan. "These are people who come because America’s cops keep them safe."
Under the zero tolerance policy, parents who crossed into the United States illegally for the first time were charged with a misdemeanor while their children were place under the purview of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. More than 2,000 youngsters ended up in the government's system for unaccompanied migrant children.
Zoltan said Trump's policy was "in defiance of international norms" established by the 1951 Refugee Convention, which is supposed to protect asylum seekers from being criminally prosecuted.
"They leave their countries because they must in order to live,” Zoltan said.
Even though Trump ended the policy by executive order, families are still separated. Consul officials, immigration attorneys and families continue to sort through complicated cases and the logistics of reuniting families.
Such is the situation for this Honduran father, who said he doesn't want to fear for his life every day and he doesn't want to be deported. Asked where safety is, he responded: "Here."
Destination: North Texas
The number of immigrants in the United States from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras rose by 25 percent between 2007 and 2015, according to the Pew Research Center. Many end up living in California, New York and Texas.
The research center's analysis of government data also found that in fiscal year 2015-2016, 37 percent of all asylum applications were filed by people from these three countries.
Central American immigrants have made homes all over Texas, including Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Irving. In Tarrant County, there are 8,600 Salvadorans, 4,500 Hondurans and 2,500 Guatemalans, according to recent estimates based on U.S. Census data analyzed by the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.
Immigrants have long built communities as they find safety and better futures. Dallas-Fort Worth has attracted waves of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers who have given North Texas a global feel.
"Why Texas?" said one 26-year-old Honduran woman who didn't want her name published. "Because it is close."
She said many, like her, flee unsafe communities and step into a life in Texas with no immigration status. It comes at a cost because they leave family members behind and live among people who, like Trump, see them as criminals, she said.
"We call them racist," she said. "We are human beings. Not all of us are thieves. We work."
Typically, people from foreign countries have to get an immigrant visa to come to move permanently to the United States. People have to apply at a U.S. embassy or consular office. People who are fleeing their countries often say the process is too difficult or long when safety is the concern.
Darl Easton, who leads the Tarrant County Republican Party, said something has to be done to address illegal immigration that is "over the top."
“If they ignore our immigration laws, what other laws are they going to ignore?” Easton said, adding that he understands that sorting through asylum claims is a more complicated issue.
“Somebody has to stay and fight these gangs; who is it?” said Easton, who served in the U.S. military in the 1980s in El Salvador.
Fort Worth City Councilman Carlos Flores represents District 2, which includes the largely Hispanic Northside area. He said jobs and opportunity draw people to the region, including immigrants. Additionally, Flores said the area has established social service organizations and charities that support immigrants and refugees.
“This policy of separating children from their parents — from their guardians — it is not a constructive policy at all," said Flores, adding that it is possible to seek border security and the humane treatment of people at the same time.
'They tried to kill me'
In Irving, Honduran consul Suyapa Casias monitors the cases of families and children separated by the zero tolerance policy.
Casias said the Honduran government is hopeful that Trump's executive order will result in more humane treatment of migrants.
"The government of Honduras thinks it is a very unfortunate decision to apply this tough and inhumane policy of separating immediately children from their parents at the border as a means to continue his anti-migrant laws and positions," she said.
She said the first lady of Honduras, Ana Garcia de Hernandez, has urged families not to send their children because of the dangers. She said the consulate is trying to help parents find their children who are being held in shelters across the United States.
In April, after being threatened by gangs, Rodriguez decided to take his family and run. He left a furniture business, coffee farm and his cars. He took enough cash for a pilgrimage to DFW, where he has family.
The father carried his 3-month-old baby in his arms while his 6-year-old held his 26-year-old wife's hand.
"They tried to kill me in Honduras because of problems my brother had with gangs," the father said in Spanish, adding that his brothers were killed by gangs.
The day they left, they each carried backpacks, he said. They took his 6-year-old son out of school abruptly. As a businessman, he knew he had resources so he didn't have to rely on smugglers for the whole journey.
The family's first attempt ended when they were picked up by Mexican authorities. They were held in Mexican detention before being sent back to Honduras. The family went back to the house and collected more money to try their journey again.
"We couldn't be there much time," the father said.
Rodriguez said they relied on buses and bribes to make it through much of Mexico — their route took them through San Luis Potosí up through Monterrey. Their aim was to get to Matamoros, a Mexican city across from Brownsville, he said.
The goal was to find safety, even if that meant embarking on a perilous journey.
"We didn't think about that," the father explained.
'Don't think we abandoned you, son'
The portion of the journey between Monterrey and the Mexico-Texas border required that they switch to paid guides who would take them around a Mexican checkpoint. It was during that stretch that bandits attacked the man's family and other migrants headed north.
The family was separated. The father and baby ended up in a hotel in Matamoros, where they were robbed. The mother and son were kidnapped and held for ransom, he said.
The father said it was too dangerous to stay in the hotel. He left and after that crossed the Rio Grande as he guided his baby on a tire.
"He was calm," the father said. "I felt as if he knew there was danger."
He turned himself in to U.S. immigration officials. The father and baby spent time in Brownsville before being moved to a facility in McAllen. He said he's stood in the infamous cages depicted in media accounts during this recent zero tolerance policy crisis.
The father said he rocked the baby for comfort as he cried for breast milk. He also pushed for asylum. Eventually, he was allowed out with an electronic monitoring device as he awaits court hearings. His family paid a ransom for his wife and 6-year-old, who later ended up in detention after turning themselves in to the U.S Border Patrol.
He said his wife is in detention while his son is confused in a shelter in Arizona. When father and son talk on the telephone, the little boy asks about his mother and if she is crying for him. He asks if his father will pay a ransom for him.
"The child thinks he is kidnapped," the father said.
He keeps trying to soothe the boy's fears: "Don't think we abandoned you, son."