Ana never thought that she would have to leave her home in El Salvador. A 50-year-old mother of four and grandmother of two, Ana was collecting a pension after years of hard work and was looking forward to paying off her home and using the proceeds to help take care of her family.
Trouble started when her 16-year-old grandson became the target of a local gang. The gang also sent Ana threatening messages because they knew she had a steady income and could be extorted. After trying to fend off the gang, her grandson was eventually killed, and her daughter-in-law disappeared. Unfortunately, these stories were all too common in Ana’s neighborhood. She was so scared that she refused to leave her home out of fear for her life. Ana decided that her only option was to flee the country.
She packed what she could carry and took a bus to Guatemala. She knew it wouldn’t be safe to stay there because the same gang could find her, so she traveled on to Mexico. After arriving in Tapachula, she found herself alone and scared. Her 13-year-old granddaughter followed her separately and eventually joined her in Mexico. She heard that she couldn’t travel further north, so they decided to apply for refugee status in Mexico.
“I met a woman from Honduras who told me to go to JRS. They helped me complete my paperwork to apply for asylum with COMAR,” Ana said. Yet, after almost a year in Mexico, Ana is still waiting to receive a decision about her asylum claim. COMAR made several mistakes with her paperwork, first listing the wrong nationality and then confusing her story with another’s. After several incidents of mismanagement by COMAR, Ana feels anxious and frustrated about her fate.
Yet, if her refugee case is successful, Ana hopes to travel north to find work. In Tapachula, she engages in day labor to earn a little money to support herself and her granddaughter. But it’s not enough. “I’m not allowed to work and have lost a lot of weight because I eat very little,” she said.
Read stories like Ana’s in JRS/USA’s report Stranded: The Impact of US Policies on Asylum Seekers and join June 18 us for a live virtual event with discussion from experts on these policies and the current issues at the US-Mexico border.