“It was a gift from God that these people were put in my life.” This is Kenia’s story of the hope she maintained throughout her migration journey, a hope that was made possible not only by her own will but by the support and kindness of strangers she met along the way.
Kenia is a mother of three children from Guerrero, Mexico. The father of those three children is a man whose family was involved in illegal drug trafficking. Although her then-husband was not directly involved, her family was a target of violent threats anyway. It was an unspeakably horrific time for her family: death threats, a murder, territorial battles, kidnappings, sexual violence, attacks on small business owners, and poverty became a part of daily life in her small town.
In 2019, Kenia saw no other choice but to flee Guerrero. She made this desperate yet brave decision despite having no family to go to or any idea of what to do. The only guidance she received was from a couple who had sought asylum in Nogales, Sonora, so she took their word for it and decided to do the same.
“It’s so difficult to leave your hometown. It’s your family, it’s your house. It’s everything. But it was also impossible to return, and we had nowhere else to go. From what I know, things are still terrible there. I am terrified for my family,” Kenia said.
She and her children took a 3-day bus ride to Nogales, where she arrived knowing close to nothing of her surroundings. After confusingly finding her way to the “line” she was told about (the port of entry), Kenia presented her family to US Customs and Border Protection officials. They were given a number and were told to wait.
Since her family knew nothing about Kino besides seeing them serve food to migrants in line, they stayed at a different place that only offered shelter during the night. It was a distressing time with experiences like being forced to eat expired bread out of desperation or staying up all night because her 4-month-old child would not stop crying.
“I got to a point where I started crying with my baby. I didn’t know if I could handle this or what was wrong with my child. I begged God to help me. I felt like I couldn’t go on anymore.”
Kenia recalls the kindness of one migrant woman she met who offered her a healing cream for her baby who was severely sunburnt. It was this very same woman who told the staff at KBI about Kenia’s situation and got her in contact with them.
One of the sisters came up to Kenia and offered her a spot with her children in their shelter. At the time, they only had room for single mothers and their children, but they offered a spot to her anyway and even let her occasionally see her husband.
Being in an unfamiliar place, Kenia was hesitant on who to trust. She was unsure if she’d be taken somewhere or if it would be a safe place for her children. Ultimately, given that she hadn’t slept in days and her baby was still crying, she decided to trust Kino and accept the offer.
The Kino shelter instantly became a place of deep holistic accompaniment for Kenia and her children. “They gave us everything, from food to clothes to diapers. It was a gift from God that these people were put in my life.”
She arrived in Nogales around the same time as Sr. Pina did. Pina, along with the other sisters, were a huge support system for Kenia. She became very close to the other women in the shelter too, and she is still in contact with them today. “I feel such a deep appreciation for them, all these people I didn’t know and didn’t even recognize where they came from.”
About 2 months into their time in Nogales, Sr. Pina shared the news with Kenia that their waiting time was over. “If it is God’s will, today is the day you cross,” said Sr. Pina. She accompanied Kenia and her family to the port of entry, where they said their goodbyes and wished each other well.
Kenia and her family were moved around between cage-like structures and a clinic for about a day before she learned of their fate. She recalls freezing the whole night while trying to use her body heat to protect her baby.
Finally, they had legally made it over. An Arizona shelter gave her family food, an opportunity to shower, a place to sleep, and communication with their sponsor in the U.S. They were put on a bus, and though they didn’t understand much in English, they found more kind people on the way who provided them with food and help with bus routes.
Kenia and her family are currently still in the U.S. awaiting their legal asylum case to proceed. Though Kenia undoubtedly suffered incredible hardship throughout her journey, she urges other migrants to keep persisting and to see the light in the darkness.
“You have to learn to see God’s gifts. They are in the little things, like the food that is offered to you, the roof that is over your head, and the people who help you along the way.”