One Asylum Seeker’s Story
The tale of one person's journey to find shelter in the U.S.
Held in a prison for ten weeks, handcuffed, and separated from her young daughter, one woman speaks out about her experience crossing the southern border. Due to the sensitive nature of her identity, she has asked to remain anonymous.
Growing up in Central America, she never imagined moving to the United States. There was gang violence in her region, and a traumatic incident resulted in several months spent in the hospital during her teenage years. She went through a series of bad relationships which resulted in her moving to Mexico and trying to find work to support her two daughters. When an opportunity arose to cross the border, she seized it.
Her treatment during her ten week imprisonment was inhumane. Whenever she left her cell she had to wear a uniform and be handcuffed. She stated that, “I arrived at the ugliest moment and was made into an example”. She described the prison as very cold, but her chief concern was for her daughter. They had been separated and she had no idea where her daughter was being held.
She was taken before a judge and told by a translator not to speak. She was also informed by this translator, incorrectly, that she was going to be sent back to Mexico. However, despite the fear tactics utilized by guards, and the discouragement of other prisoners, she refused to be silenced, and stood up before the judge. She demanded to know where her daughter had been taken. It was a tape of this occurrence that started her journey towards a new life.
A lawyer saw the tape and admired her enough to contact her through phone calls in the prison. The guards singled her out for it, and she said that, “They didn’t want me knowing an American”. Despite their treatment, and warnings from the others that it was a trick, she left with the lawyer who paid her bail.
From there she made it clear that her impression of Americans completely changed. She was used to the cruel tactics of immigration officials, and, she described it as a shock to be, “treated like a princess” for the five days she stayed with the lawyer. After that she described how open people have been while helping her now and how many neighbors have pitched in to support her and her daughter.
She was set-up with an organization that houses asylum seekers and aids them in gaining independence. At first she described how new information, “didn’t stick”. This was due to the overwhelming change and trauma. While she had been housed in a prison in Texas, her young daughter had been sent to another facility in the South. The organization allowed them to be united and stay with a host family.
However, this reunion was not perfect, since she had to leave another very young daughter who stayed with her sister in Central America. This separation was the most difficult part of her experience and greatly contributed, not only to her resilience, but also to her desire to succeed. She described being confused with the volunteer work and English lessons that the organization signed her up for. She stated that, “I wanted to work”. That way she would be able to make money and send it back to her young daughter, insuring that she could be supported even while she was not around. She was frustrated and had to come to terms with the restrictions placed on her, including the fact that she could not work.
Additionally difficult, was her isolated location in homogenous New England, and the language barrier between her and her host family. However, once she realized that her daughter would be helped through others, she was fully on board with the program, including her English lessons and volunteer work.
Despite all the hardship she endured with her daughter, she wants people to know that she is, “strong, and I look out for my children”. Together they have had remarkable success so far. Her daughter that accompanied her is described as being, “a miracle student” in school, and she has created beautiful drawings.
Both she and her mother projected joy, and, despite the language barrier, a happy banter filled the house. The host told a funny story about making pancakes and they all joked about how terrible they tasted. The house was vibrant, and full of laughter. Despite the many hardships of their lives, the woman and her daughter created a new and lasting family. The host described what they do as, “a little thing”. However, the impact upon the woman and her daughter were evident.