REYNOSA, Mexico -- The Senda de Vida migrant shelter sits on a hill overlooking the Rio Grande in this border city. The greenish waters flow through a bend in the river down below. On the other side, so seemingly close, is Hidalgo, Texas.
Shelters like this one are packed these days with migrants planning to cross the Rio Grande and enter the United States illegally.
They are part of an unprecedented tsunami of families and children traveling on their own from Central America trying to reach the United States through the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where the Border Patrol has been overwhelmed by the surge.
On Thursday, about 50 immigrants were living here. Every bed was full.
Many of the migrants were women who had traveled from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala with young children. All of them had run out of money. Now, they were stuck at the shelter, within eyesight of the United States.
Hundreds of migrants from Central America are crossing the river daily. They are turning themselves over to the Border Patrol once they reach U.S. soil. At Anzalduas Park in the U.S. border city of Mission, deputies from the Hidalgo County Constable Department Precinct 3 encountered 103 migrants on Wednesday night alone, according to Sgt. Dan Broyles, a spokesman for the agency.
The Senda de Vida shelter, run by a Christian pastor, offers the migrants food, a place to sleep and relative safety from the drug-cartel violence that has roiled Reynosa for years, turning the city of 600,000 into one of the most dangerous in Mexico.
Many of them are there based on false hopes.
Doris Martinez, 46, left Honduras on April 24 with her 5-year-old daughter, Anni, traveling most of the way by bus. Anni has Down syndrome. Before leaving, Martinez heard that the U.S. government was giving women traveling with children "permisos" — permits — to stay in the U.S. if they could make it across the river on their own.
The rumor isn't true. The U.S. government has been releasing parents traveling with children because detention facilities in the U.S. have been overwhelmed by the surge in Central Americans traveling with children.
After being processed, the migrant families are dropped off at bus stations in McAllen and other cities, including recently in Tucson and Phoenix. They are given notices to report to U.S. immigration authorities once they reach their destinations.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials have stressed that even though the migrant families from Central America are being released, they remain in deportation proceedings.
Nevertheless, the rumor that women with children will be allowed to stay permanently was reinforced for Martinez after some relatives of her husband crossed the Rio Grande illegally in March. They were released after being detained for a few days and allowed to continue on their journey to the East Coast.
Martinez has a niece in Dallas.
"My intention is to cross to the other side to the United States because my daughter has special needs. I am looking for help. I heard there is a special school for children like her," Martinez said. "In Honduras, they don't help children like her. They discriminate against them. They treat them like they aren't even people."
Fourteen-year-old Brayan Duban Soler Redando left Honduras in April.
He also heard a rumor in Honduras that children who can make it to the U.S. are being given permission to stay so they can go to school.
After hearing about two friends who made it to the United States, Brayan left the next day.
"They say when you get to the other side, go to la migra(the Border Patrol) and la migrawill help you," Brayan said, sitting in the shade of a tree at the shelter.
He had traveled alone all the way from the village of Quebrada Maria on the Caribbean coast of Honduras, through El Salvador, Guatemala and then Mexico. To reach Reynosa, Brayan begged for bus fare, hopped trains, walked, hitched rides and even swam at night across a river between Guatemala and Mexico.
But in Reynosa, Brayan ran out of money.
The smugglers charge as much as $400 per person for a trip that in most spots in this area is no more than 100 yards wide. Criminal gangs that control the waters stand between the migrants and the U.S.
At one point, Brayan walked up to an embankment and stood contemplating how he would come up with the $100 — a fortune — the smugglers want to take him across the Rio Grande.
"If I can pay the fee and make it across, I will turn myself in to la migra and, hopefully, they will help me," he said. "It would be a miracle. I pray God allows it."