Jasmine Garsd

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There is a joke circulating in San Salvador these days: "Instead of using a condom, use a mosquito net! That should at least keep the mosquitoes from biting your privates."

The joke is a dig at the unusual suggestion made by the governments of El Salvador and various other Latin American countries. Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador (as well as Jamaica) have advised that women hold off on getting pregnant. El Salvador went as far as to urge women to hold back on having children until 2018.

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Late last year, it was revealed that the Department of Homeland Security was going to step up pursuit of people with deportation orders. Arrests took place the first weekend of January; DHS has confirmed that 121 people were detained in those operations.

"El Almohadon De Pluma" (The Feather Pillow), written in 1905, is a classic of Latin American literature. Uruguayan author Horacio Quiroga tells the tale of Alicia, a newlywed who begins mysteriously and rapidly losing weight. Soon she's bedridden with severe anemia. The doctors are perplexed. She dies in no time. As the maid is cleaning out the bedroom, she calls the widower in: The pillow where Alicia used to rest her head has dark blood stains. She tries to lift the pillow up, but it's too heavy.

There's a place in the city of Tijuana, Mexico, called El Bordo, which has always been somewhat reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic movie scene. The name comes from "the border," which is where it's located: right by the fence that separates the U.S. from Mexico, among the enormous paved canals that run through Southern California like concrete veins. Hundreds of people live in those canals, often in makeshift tents, the smell of sewage made ripe by the hot Tijuana sun. It's a place where many deportees try to get by. It's also a site of heavy drug use.

On a weekday morning, in an upscale area of Arlington, Va., the suburban silence is as thick as the foliage save for the hum of a leaf blower or an occasional car. In one of the homes, Sheba Velasco is thinking of snacks for the children. She's their nanny.

Then the phone rings.

Thousands of miles to the west, it's very early in the morning, and a young man has been caught trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

"First of all" Velasco begins, "may I ask that he is from Nebaj? He speaks Ixil?"

The week she turned 15, Rosi got an amazing birthday present. She was in a government shelter in New York.

And then her father walked in. It was the first time she'd seen him in almost four years.

"He brought me a big cake as a present. It was vanilla," she says.

"She was wearing jeans, tennis shoes, and this little collared blouse," her father remembers, laughing.

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