Few Child Refugees Get to Stay Here Legally. Meet One of the Lucky Ones

Darlin Adonay Peña has a headache.

On a Wednesday afternoon in May, he takes a break from his job flipping burgers at a McDonald’s on Central Avenue in Phoenix to sit down and talk, sipping a frozen caramel coffee drink and rubbing his almond eyes.

A brown rosary peeks from beneath his shiny black uniform. He’s shaved both sides of his head, taming a few meticulous black curls atop with gel.

A few pimples on his forehead give away Peña’s age. He is just 18. This is his first job since coming to the United States from Honduras last year, and he wants to do it to perfection.

He makes $7.95 an hour. The work is stressful. Sometimes, there are discussions in the back about how many burgers should be grilled at a time. Peña follows the rules carefully. Then he draws the ire of those who don’t. And that’s a headache, too.

Me duele el cerebro,” he says. “My brain hurts.”

He gets headaches all the time. He doesn’t know why. It might be the beating he took in Nogales, Mexico, just before he crossed the border almost a year ago. It might be the memories of a terrible childhood. Or it might be the stress of the better life (though it’s a hard one) that he’s found in the United States.

To read Valeria Fernández's complete report, click here to see the story on Valley Fever, New Times' news blog.

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Valeria Fernández