Goodbye at the Border | God's World News
Goodbye at the Border
Jet Balloon
Posted: January 01, 2024
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    Niko, a pet squirrel, stands on Yeison’s shoulder in their tent at a migrant camp on September 20, 2023, in Matamoros, Mexico. (AP/Valerie Gonzalez)
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    Niko and Yeison in their tent (AP/Valerie Gonzalez)
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    Yeison feeds Niko. (AP/Valerie Gonzalez)
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    Yeison made it to the United States border, but he must prepare to say goodbye. (AP/Valerie Gonzalez)
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Yeison and Niko traveled for weeks. Finally, they reached the United States border. It was time to say goodbye.

Yeison is a human. Niko is a squirrel.

News reporters wrote about the unusual pair in September. Yeison didn’t tell those reporters his last name. If he did, danger could come to his family back in Venezuela.

Venezuela has become a terribly unsafe place to live and work. So millions of people run away. Refugees take the 3,000-mile journey to the States. Often, they bring only what they can carry.

What would you bring? Yeison chose Niko, a squirrel with a black stripe and flecks of white hair. Niko made the long trip nesting in a red knit cap stuffed inside a backpack.

Other migrants wish to cross the U.S. border with their pets too (usually cats and dogs, not squirrels). But animals aren’t usually allowed across.

“It would practically be like starting with nothing, without Niko,” Yeison says.

Yeison found the squirrel after nearly stepping on him one day in Venezuela. The squirrel looked like a newborn. Yeison took him home. He named him Niko. He let him nibble pine trees, tomatoes, and mangoes.

Like thousands of migrants, Yeison made the trip through the perilous jungle known as the Darién Gap. He hid Niko in a backpack when they boarded buses and had inspections at checkpoints.

Once they reached an encampment in Mexico, the duo settled into a routine while they wait. Yeison cut hair by his tent to earn money. He often fell asleep sharing the same pillow with Niko at night.

“I hope he gets to be happy,” Yeison says. “And that he never forgets my face.”

Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. — Deuteronomy 10:19

Why? A new wave of emigrants from Venezuela arrives at the United States’ border. Many are individuals with unique and sometimes painful stories.