TIJUANA (Border Report) — Agustin Pena had money, a large home, avocado groves and a packing plant in Michoacan, Mexico. He says he gave it all up to save his family.

“Leaving everything behind for the reason of definitely saving our lives,” said Pena, who with his family now lives in a Tijuana migrant shelter more than 1,000 miles from the life he knew. “You get up every morning in fear wondering if you’re going to be killed, kidnapped or beaten … if someone is going to show up insisting you pay a higher quota than what I’m already paying them.”

Pena said he woke up one day and decided he couldn’t live like that anymore.

“We lived with fear, can’t sleep, you’re up wondering what bad thing is going to happen to you,” he said

Agustin Pena had a home in the hills overlooking his avocado groves in Michoacan, Mexico. (Courtesy: Agustin Pena)

Pena said he was paying a cartel the equivalent of $2,500 per month to avoid them harming his family and employees.

“You know the consequences if you refuse to pay,” said Pena. “They are using drones to drop grenades on field workers and out on the streets as a way to intimidate the public.”

Pena told Border Report his brother was kidnapped early last year, and even though the ransom was paid, his brother is still missing.

“Every day there’s a threat and people end up dead or missing, bodies wrapped in blankets or in pieces in garbage bags,” Pena said.

Pena is hopeful he’ll be able to cross into the United States and begin working in the avocado industry north of the border.

“Over the years I made a lot of contacts with growers in California, I can run my operation from there, others have done it,” he said.

For the time being, he’ll remain in a shelter until he can get into the United States and pursue an asylum case for him and his family.

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