Director of Communications, Gia Del Pino, sat down with four of the migrant leaders leading the charge for “Restore Protections for Holy Families: Prophetic Action to #SaveAsylum” march taking place September 25th, 2021. Excerpts from the interview below. All names have been changed.
Aurora: My name is Aurora. I come from the state of Guerrero. I am a housewife. I arrived in Nogales on July 28th.
Carlos: Good morning my name is Carlos. I am originally from Cuernavaca, Morelos. Right now I come from Tijuana. I come with my family. My wife and my 3 children. I arrived in Nogales, too, on July 28th.
Yesenia: Hello, good morning, my name is Yesenia, I come from the state of Guerrero, I am here with my son, and we arrived here on July 14th.
Manuel: Good morning, my name is Manuel and I come from the state of Guerrero. I am a craftsman and I arrived on August 9th.
Why did you leave your hometown? Why are you seeking asylum?
Manuel: The truth is, I left my house because of threats and because of organized crime. Beforehand, I was a craftsman, but I also worked as a driver on a local route. Organized crime asked me for quotas and told me to work for them; and if I didn’t want to, then I needed to see a way, because otherwise they were going to kill me. That’s why I had to flee my state. They even killed many colleagues from my work. I mean taxi drivers. I come with my whole family and we came looking for asylum. We no longer want to live in fear of that trauma that we bring, that someone can hurt us. And I do it for my children. Organized crime grab the boys, the young people, and recruit them. I have a 16-year-old son [voice cracks, becomes emotional] sorry, I don’t want it to happen to him, what has happened to many people. I have seen my relatives die, disappear, and we have never found them. And I don’t want to see that happen to my family. That is why I flee.
It is something truly painful, but real. These are the times that I thank God we are fleeing. We have suffered enough, but we are still alive, still. So what do we want? What we want is just to have a little bit of freedom, a little security, for ourselves, for my children, for my wife, and not live in fear. Because every moment we live there in our state, Guerrero, you cannot find tranquility. You cannot even go out to buy food, or run an errand. For example, my handicrafts, I couldn’t sell them. Because they [organized crime] are watching and [ask] “hey what is this?” Then they come to you and they wanted to take things away from you. And it is not fair, that one lives likes this. As we say where we are from, “What are you striving for?” Are you going to give them your labor? Are you going to give your life to them? So where is the freedom that the Mexican has? Because that fight, for our freedom, that we are free, is not real. In our country, it is no longer real. In our state, it is no longer. And that is what we have been looking for, what we have been fighting for. We are looking for today, a little bit of freedom. We are not bad people. Because the bad guys there, we want to leave them behind. Let him stay with the state, with the country, whatever they want. But let us be free, really. That is what we want, nothing more.
Yesenia: The reason why I am seeking asylum is because of threat [of death] and persecution. The reason was, because I had an attack, and then I denounced it. And that was the reason why they [the mafia] threatened me that they would take away my family, and mainly my son. Well, I have more family, I have more children, but unfortunately due to lack of money, we cannot bring them all with me, and that is why I had to give priority to the eldest. He is the one they want to take away from me, well, now as revenge because I denounced them. And that’s why I’m here. I want my son to live normal, like all young people who study, live their quiet life, it is what I want for all my children, but at this moment unfortunately I cannot have them here, but I have faith in God that I can bring them.
Aurora: Where I lived, I had a confrontation [with the mafia, while I was] with my baby. He has been [breastfeeding] since he was a year and a month old. [Over] there the houses are made of wood with laminate [roofs]. And I had to go out in [between] the crossfire with my child. We had to go down to a house below. That day it had rained. And there was the mist below, because it was quite cold. I had to go down with my child running. I fell with my child. I got to my house of my sister-in-law, who lived at the base of the hill. From there, on the radio, because they use the radio airwaves, they said that they did not care that there were children, women, that they were going to shoot up the houses. We had to go down to the police station. We spent the most time there. Before entering the town they [the mafia] killed a man. They surrounded the town, and killed two other men, apart from that one. They came to town, I mean, they were not interested in the fact that there were women, that there were children outside, so they grabbed and started [voice cracks, becomes emotional]… Before that, they had killed two of my cousins. They were deprived of their freedom. They were beaten. They were kidnapped. They shot them in the forehead. Nothing more for the simple fact that they did not want to cooperate with them. And that’s why I’m here. Because I am afraid. Actually I’m afraid because they don’t just threaten the people who are there, they threaten everyone. They say they don’t care about them, that is, they are going to take children, because they are going to kill them together with their families. And realities like that happen. I am very afraid, I mean, not so much for me, but for my child. Because my child is very small. And I don’t want something to happen to him.
Manuel: I think there are many people who are even worse off than I am. I thank God, we are here. We were fortunate to get out on time. Because many, as the woman [Aurora] explained, they have no regard even for infants and children. It is a disgrace. It is really heavy. Because she is alone [single mother]. Not having where and with whom to go because, be that as it may, sometimes as a human being, you have your wife and she gives you value. You have your husband, and he gives you value. But when you are alone, what is it that gives you value? It is more painful. For me I see it this way. As a man, my respects for those women who are currently suffering and truly trying to get ahead. And God willing, they open the opportunity for us. As I just said, we are not bad people, we are people who unfortunately have been dealt a bad hand, so to speak. I work honestly. I have never, since the date my children were born, until today, I have never gotten into bad things. I really believe and feel that all the people are here are out of necessity. For saving the lives of their children. As I repeat, I feel that it is not mine [life that I care about], but my children.
Yesenia: Yes, as a parent, all you do is think about the lives of your children.
Manuel: The truth is, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t have come here. I would stay. In the end, I don’t have anything to lose. I have lived. But not my children. I still need to guide them a little. To teach them how to survive. Henceforth, let it be what God wants.
Why did you start organizing for this march? What motivated you to share your experiences?
Yesenia: Well, in part so that the government of the United States realizes what is actually happening here. And not because we just want to enjoy life and have a good job or things like that. Or as they say, we just want to be criminals. So all this was on the basis of them realizing what is actually happening here. What the families are actually experiencing, to be waiting right here in Mexico. And that was the reason why we got together and decided to share what we are experiencing, which is not easy. Because they also persecute and threaten us. And many times we are afraid to speak, why? Because many times we have very bad experiences, like I had when I denounced these guys [the mafia]. They told me, either you leave, or you are going to arrive in black [body] bags. Those were their words. So that was what motivated me to share what was happening with me, and what is happening with all of us who are here. Because we are all here for a reason, and sometimes some [reasons] stronger than others. So this way the people who are there [the United States] who can make advocate, can do something for us. So they realize that by being detained here, many people are forcing us to do bad things. And what happens? There are many deaths. There are many things that can be avoided, if they can give us our right to asylum, as it should be. And that was the reason why we got together.