JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Economic need drove Azucena and her husband out of Guatemala with their two young daughters in tow.
And even though the family endured a 15-day kidnapping in Northeast Mexico before arriving at a Juarez shelter, the woman said she’s managed to keep her daughters ages 1 and 3 safe.
That’s why she could never imagine herself placing her children by themselves in the hands of smugglers.
“I wouldn’t have the heart to send my daughters alone. I, as a mother, wouldn’t risk my daughters like that,” Azucena said.
Her comments came after watching a U.S. Customs and Border Protection video of smugglers dropping two Ecuadorian toddlers over the border wall and running away, abandoning them in the desert near Sunland Park, New Mexico, west of El Paso.
Azucena said she knows the hopelessness of living in poverty and constant fear of gangs, which drove her to attempt to seek asylum in the United States. But she said she can’t imagine parents trusting “evil people” like human smugglers.
“A small child can get hurt or imagine the Border Patrol doesn’t find him. (Being abandoned) is very difficult on children. They are angels of God. Imagine something happening to them,” she said. The Ecuadorian children in the video released on Wednesday – two girls ages 3 and 5 – “are at the mercy of God.”
Elsa, another Guatemalan woman staying at a Juarez shelter with her 1-year-old daughter, shook her head as she watched the images.
“It’s very sad because they are still babies. They could’ve broken something falling from so high. It’s sad,” said Elsa, who arrived in Juarez only a few weeks ago.
She said witnessing the almost casual abuse the girls in the video suffer being let go and abandoned on the other side of a 14-foot barrier was especially painful for her. Elsa is fleeing Guatemala not so much out of poverty – she had a job and managed to feed her four children – but because she was threatened by a man who abused one of her sons.
“Children are defenseless. They don’t know what is happening to them,” Elsa said, adding she left her three oldest children in the care of her parents after the incident with her son, and bolted for the U.S. border with her youngest daughter.
Both women said they’ve attempted crossing the border twice, but were sent back to Mexico each time.
“The first time they told me that maybe later, that they might open the border soon. The second time they told me it would not be possible” with so many people coming, Azucena said. “I hope president (Biden) changes his mind.”
Elsa said she would at least like the opportunity to tell her story to an immigration judge. “I was mother and father to my children. I was the provider. I was poor but there were always beans with rice, tortillas with salt,” she said. “If that criminal hadn’t done what he did to my son, I wouldn’t have left my country. Here (in Mexico) it’s hard to stay because they kidnap you if you go out and the police, all they want is money.”