EL PASO, Texas (NewsNation Now) — Just beyond the border south of El Paso, people hoping to start a new life in the U.S. wait in Juarez, Mexico, as their requests for asylum are processed.
For Candelaria Morales, the tears and scars on her face tell the story of her journey from Guatemala to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
“It’s so hard over there as a single mom with the crime,” Morales said. “Somebody tried to break into my house and that’s why I decided to leave.”
Juarez’s history includes longstanding violence and a heavy cartel presence. Recently, the area experienced a drop in homicides. Juarez closed 2021 with 1,420 homicides — a 14 percent decrease from 2020.
Nine out of 10 killings in the city were drug-related last year and more than a third of the victims were men and women between the ages of 18 and 29; most were killed execution-style, often with a bullet to the head or on the losing end of a barrage of bullets, according to an analysis released by the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office.
Morales and her 4-year-old son were able to escape, but it hasn’t been easy. They were heading north in the back of a tractor-trailer when the truck flipped and landed them both in a hospital.
As she lay in the hospital bed, Morales said she was certain she would die and was filled with renewed determination to get her son to his father in Pennsylvania.
“I was unconscious for several hours and I thank God he revived me and I was able to live on,” she said.
Also fleeing Guatemala was Sonya Felipe Pasquale, who sought safety from domestic violence. Only once Pasquale arrives in Alabama with her extended family will she feel safe, she said. The trip already has been treacherous. Pasquale’s 1-year-old daughter almost was taken on the bus ride to Juarez, she said.
“She was crying on the bus and someone grabbed her away from me and threatened to kill my daughter,” Pasquale said.
Pasquale and Morales are just two of the hundreds of migrants cared for each month at the Good Samaritan Shelter in Ciudad Juarez. According to Pastor Juan Fierro Garcia, families often arrive in poor condition as they wait for the U.S. to process their asylum requests.
“Many show up with just the clothes on their backs, literally,” Garcia said. “Some show up without shoes because they crossed the river.”
There are dozens of shelters like Good Samaritan in Juarez and still, they can’t meet the demand, Garcia said. Just across the way from El Paso, the largest U.S. city on the border, Jaurez and its shelters are common places for migrants to pass through.
For Morales, the journey isn’t over but she believes she’ll make it to Pennsylvania.
“I have a lot of faith in God,” she said.
The U.S., however, has denied Pasquale’s asylum claim. She’s appealing the ruling, a decision she says is her only option.
“I ask God that I am able to get over there and make a life over there,” Pasquale said.