EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — With the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily halting the lifting of Title 42, thousands of migrants continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border amid all the uncertainty.
KTSM had a one-on-one interview with a Nicaraguan migrant who was staying at the Rescue Mission of El Paso, as she shared her traumatic experience.
“I thank God that I was one of the survivors from the cartel. Then again, I was sexually abused,” the woman said.
Nico Palazzo, senior staff attorney with Las Americas Immigrant Advocate in El Paso, says many of these human smugglers, also known as coyotes, can be violent and connected to the cartels.
He says there are several reasons migrant women crossing the border to the U.S. from Mexico are known to be at higher risk of getting sexually abused by human smugglers.
“One of them being the failure of law enforcement in general in Mexico, to protect this vulnerable population of migrants, in particular women who are traveling alone or with their children,” Palazzo said. “And so on top of that, they know the vulnerability that these individuals confront. Many of them are undocumented in Mexico, and so as a form of bribery, they will exploit female migrants. They will sexually abuse them on condition that their own security, the migrants’ own security and wellbeing is very dependent on the coyotes.”
And that can lead to health problems for these women migrants, he said.
“They make the choice to have an abortion. They had a lot of diseases and infections as it relates to the sexual assault. These are factors that are aggravating their general vulnerability in Mexico,” Palazzo said.
The Nicaraguan woman, who is a mother of five and two grandchildren, shared her experience as she waited for her next move at the Rescue Mission of El Paso.
“On Saturday, when I jumped on the bus … they told us to give them the ticket and cellphone because they were going to take a video of us. The bus driver knew what was going to happen to us and even the company knew what was going to happen to us,” she said.
She said when they ended up in Durango state, that is when one of the cartels took advantage of her.
She said she was left with no money in her pockets, kidnapped with many others, and unable to shower for eight days.
“They began to only give us water and electrolytes, water and electrolytes, water and electrolytes. It was all the time we had nothing to eat,” the Nicaraguan migrant said.
Palazzo said many migrants who come through are afraid of going to shelters in El Paso because they are scared of being deported, have had bad experiences in Mexican shelters, or are afraid of law enforcement.
While many migrant women are lied to and robbed, men can also be victims of violence.
“Some (of the men) that were there with us, one of us, tipped one of the guys to give him the opportunity for 21 people to come and rescue us, and that they were going to kill that guy in front of us. They grabbed him by the hair and pointed the gun at his head. He was about 21 years old. There were others that beat him up,” the Nicaraguan woman said.
While the Nicaraguan migrant left behind her five children back home in her native country, she said she wouldn’t want her children to experience the same traumatic journey she had to go through.
“Like they say, ‘The American dream,’ I had to go through a bad experience to get here,” she said.