“You go into the unknown again, but now you go knowing that you are going to put your children in something safe. I don’t want to be afraid anymore.”- Madison’s story
Names have been changed to preserve anonymity
Madison, a single mother of three children, fled Michoacan after her sons witnessed a crime committed by the cartels. To safeguard their lives from retribution, they came to Nogales last fall to seek asylum in the United States, only to be denied at the port of entry.
In an attempt to create stability for her two youngest sons, she tried to enroll them into local schools. She was turned away and faced discrimination for being a person seeking asylum. Madison said, “When I got to the border in Nogales, without knowing anyone, I tried to enroll my kids in school. They did not want to receive them due to the problem we have of persecution. The school didn’t want to be responsible if something ended up happening. They said there wasn’t any room, that there was only room in an afternoon class that got out at night. It’s illogical that after the trauma that my children experience and the fear they have, that they would be out at night. I begged them to give them virtual classes, but they said no.”
Like Madison, countless mothers face similar barriers to enroll their children into local schools. Maria and Laura are two other mothers who spoke to America Magazine’s J.D. Long- Garcia about the interrupted education their children face. Laura said, “All the schools here ask for documents that we weren’t able to bring. The schools also don’t want to have students who are immigrants and who are leaving soon.”
Bernadette “Bernie” Eguia, KBI’s Social Worker, also spoke to the reporter and said that many families who have been forcibly displaced throughout Mexico due to violence by organized crime are enduring hardship when creating temporary life in Nogales. Similar conditions of violence exist here as they do in many of the places where people are fleeing from. Rent is expensive and many families need to share the same space to put a roof over their heads. Bernie said, “They’re in a moment in which their life plans cannot proceed. They live day by day. They first secure food and where to sleep, and whatever else comes is a luxury. Where they had begun seeing education as a right, now it has become a privilege. There are few who can make it to school, and fewer that feel welcomed.”
Madison, a migrant leader and one of the Revolucionarios, shared her testimony in public during the 2022 Posada, where migrants marched ahead of the long-awaited Title 42 deadline which was set to end on December 21st. She said, “I maintain hope that the President’s heart will be touched, and he will put himself in our place. That he, as the father of a family, would like his children to experience all these discriminations, or for them to miss a year of school, waiting for the government to end Title 42 and to be able to give us asylum.”
The news of the Supreme Court decision to extend the pandemic-era policy at the 11th hour was a devastating blow to many families who had high hopes of finally being able to access life-saving asylum at ports of entry after waiting for nearly three years. Many were looking forward to reuniting with their loved ones in the U.S. just in time for Christmas. Unfortunately, Madison was one of those families who were forced to wait in Nogales during the holidays.
On January 5th, President Biden announced in his speech new regulations for humanitarian parole programs for certain nationalities (Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans) along with the reintroduction of the CBP One application. The CBP One allows migrants to schedule an appointment with CBP officials as they are traveling toward the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum. That means that families like Madison could apply using the application to schedule to present at a port of entry to speak with a CBP agent and begin their asylum process once they cross into the United States, meanwhile Title 42 still remains in place. The CBP One application was re-launched on January 12th, 2023. Madison was one of the first families to secure an appointment.
A few days before her appointment, Madison reflected with KBI staff about her experience as a Revolucionario and living in Nogales. She said, “ During my time as a Revolucionario, I learned a lot. Being a part of this team gave me a lot of security.” This security helped her in times of turmoil, as she struggled to find stable housing, education for her sons, and a sense of security being a single woman in a border town. Madison recounted a time when a local taxi driver deviated from her destination’s route and she intuitively felt that she was in danger. She quickly got on the phone with her son and gave him her location and acted as confidently as possible. The taxi driver finally dropped her off at home, where she ran upstairs trembling from fear. She wondered, “And what if I didn’t make it home? What would have happened to my children?” Madison said. “When one migrates as a single woman, you have to muster up courage where there is none. You have to be brave for your children, so that they feel safe. And so that your children don’t grow up with that insecurity and fear.”
The day finally came for Madison and her family to cross. A few KBI staff members and volunteers accompanied them to the DeConcini Port of Entry at 7:00am. AZ Central’s José Ignacio Castañeda Perez also joined to witness this moment as one of the first families presented for their appointment made through CBP One in late January. Nervous and happy, she told the reporter, “You go into the unknown again, but now you go knowing that you are going to put your children in something safe. I don’t want to be afraid anymore.”
They are finally safe in the U.S. and reunited with their family members as they prepare for their court hearing in March. Madison’s parting words were, “All I have to say to Kino is thank you. I don’t know what I would have done without your support. You are a wonderful team. I thank God that there are places like this and people like those who work here. It’s a great blessing. I would like Kino to never disappear, and that they continue to help others as you have helped me. And nothing more, just thank God a lot for places like this.”
I feel like I’ve witnessed a miracle reading about Madison. Thank you.