Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Migrants are using TikTok to share videos of their journeys to the U.S. border, warning people of the obstacles they encountered, providing information about the routes they took, and depicting the challenges they faced once they crossed the border into the United States.
In today’s story, Documented’s Rommel H. Ojeda and Lucía Cholakian Herrera write about Latin American migrants who have used TikTok to share their journeys to the U.S. border.
TikTok artwork by Rommel H. Ojeda for Documented
David Ramírez spent a year and a half planning his journey from Venezuela with five friends and a guide. He had watched YouTube videos of the trip by searching the words "selva" (jungle) and "darien," referring to Panama’s treacherous Darién Gap, but no video prepared him for the exhaustion and hopelessness he felt sitting inside the jungle at that moment.
So he vlogged and posted all of his journey on TikTok — where he amassed more than 3 million views across 115 videos, and nearly 30,000 followers — because he wanted to show other migrants the obstacles he was facing as he made his way to the U.S. border
Ramírez is one of more than 21,000 asylum seekers who entered New York City’s shelter system since spring of this year. Ramirez resided at a men’s shelter in East Williamsburg for six weeks before fleeing the system when he heard that someone died near the shelter. He went to Indianapolis to live with his friend.
"When immigration authorities let me go [at the beginning of September], I was left on the street. I had no way of coming to New York," he said. He told Documented that he had to work carrying containers of ice cream for a bodega for a week in El Paso to afford his $160 plane ticket to New York City. When he got here, he slept on streets and in parks for a week before he got admitted to a shelter.
Because TikTok monitors graphic content, he did not post the videos that included dead people — though he shared them with Documented. Everything he experienced during the month and a half that it took him to make it to the U.S. border propelled him to create TikTok videos explaining how dangerous the journey is, what it is like to find shelter in NYC, and the lengths he took to attend his first court appointment at 26 Federal Plaza.
Read the full report on Documented.