About a month ago, Hna Marlita opened the doors to welcome in two mothers and their six children. It was 7 am, and they were exhausted.
“We had gone to the checkpoint at about 4 am to petition for asylum,” says Maria, “but they denied us and sent us away.”
Both Maria and Diana have been moving around for years, seeking to escape the threats that keep following them. Their hope: to get to the U.S. and offer their children a safe and stable place to grow and thrive.
Diana’s nightmare began five years ago. She explains, “he was working as a carpenter, but he was also involved in the drug business.” One day, his phone rang while he was away from it. Diana picked it up before realizing it was a drug-related call. She quickly passed the phone off, but the damage was done. Shortly after, a group of assailants entered her home and dragged out her husband. Her daughter, Dayana, witnessed the entire attack, and Diana’s six-month-old baby was in the house as well. The attackers forced him into a car, from which he attempted to escape. He was shot.
“Then the threats started coming to me,” Diana says. Because she had picked up the phone, the men who murdered her husband believed she was involved in the drug business, too. They thought she knew too much, even though Diana knew nothing about what her husband was doing. The threats and intimidation escalated, even to the point where Diana’s mother was beaten and attacked. Diana realized that in order to keep her children and family safe, she would have to leave.
Maria has similar motivations. A few years ago, her oldest son’s father decided he wanted his son to live with him. “He hadn’t known him or spent time with him. My son doesn’t even have his last name,” Maria shares. She was married to a wonderful man. But her son’s father was relentless. “He has been saying he’ll kill me if I try to live without him, and he has connections everywhere.” Maria has moved several times across the country, but her husband has always managed to find and threaten them. After years of harassment, she and her husband decided to leave and seek asylum in the U.S.
“It hurts, because we had purchased land to build a home on. We had to leave everything behind,” Maria says. Despite all of the threats, her husband has said he will stay with her and the children until they can create a better life in safety.
Maria and Diana met at the border and quickly connected, sharing their stories and their drive to protect their families. “We got along,” Diana says, smiling at her friend. Today, the two families live together in an apartment in Nogales, Sonora.
“It’s empty, but it’s where we are,” Maria says. Maria’s husband leaves the apartment each morning to work as a machinist. As the two women both wait to seek asylum in the U.S. they are working every day to give their children spaces to take a break from their fears and to grow. “My son wants to go to school, but we’re too afraid that the gangs will threaten him here. It’s ugly, and it hurts. But when you’re with your family you feel more protected.”
In the midst of these challenges, Maria and Diana savor moments of respite. As we spoke with them, children played happily in the background. “Our welcome at Kino has been so warm. It helped us forget our problems,” Maria says. “The kids have had so much fun, they’ve gone to classes, they’ve played. They love everything here.”
They stared out at the kids. “That’s an amazing thing about kids,” Maris muses, “They can forget problems quickly. They’re so resilient.”
We echo Diana and Maria’s desire to find safety for their children. We call upon the Biden Administration to lift Title 42 and restore timely access to asylum. We lift our voices to say that migrants like these women should be able to live safely in Nogales, Sonora, while they wait. Together, we can create pathways for mothers like Diana and Maria to offer their children a safe, bright future.
Photo by Lisa Elmaleh