Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Border & Immigration

Asylum-Seeking Mother, Son, Try To Navigate US Immigration System

A mother and son seeking asylum in the U.S. wait in a plaza in Tijuana, July 25, 2019.
Matthew Bowler
A mother and son seeking asylum in the U.S. wait in a plaza in Tijuana, July 25, 2019.

Anna Margarita and her 14-year-old son Jorge got up early Thursday morning and packed their bags to leave Tijuana for what they hoped was the last time.

They fled El Salvador after they say members of their family were killed by gang members. Now, they live in constant fear for their safety behind locked doors, worried that a gang might still be after them. (KPBS has changed their names to protect their identities).

Asylum-Seeking Mother, Son, Try To Navigate US Immigration System
Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler

“When they killed our family members, at the same time they were looking for me,”Jorge said .

They’re part of the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, a new Trump administration policy which means that they have to wait in Mexico as their asylum claim plays out in U.S. courts.

VIDEO: Salvadorian Mother And Son Seeking Asylum In San Diego

RELATED: Mexico To Open Shelter For Migrants Returned From US

On days they have court, they have to get themselves to the port of entry to be taken over to the United States. They’re relatively lucky, because most immigrants in MPP don’t have a lawyer.


Still, they say Mexico has been a dangerous place. Jorge said he was robbed and had his documents stolen.

Last court date, they told the judge they didn’t want to return to Mexico. So they were held for three days in a cold room in the port of entry known as the "hielera" while they awaited an interview from an asylum officer.

“It was hard for me, because it was cold and we didn’t have any food, but it was much harder for the smaller kids,” Jorge said.

On Thursday, they had a hearing in downtown San Diego as part of their ongoing asylum process. Their lawyers from Jewish Family Service (working alongside the San Diego Rapid Response Network), argued that they needed to be screened by an organization that evaluates torture claims, including emotional torture, but the U.S. government countered that it wasn’t able to accommodate the request because it couldn’t properly staff the interview.

A judge then set another hearing in their case for October. Jorge and Anna Margarita were then brought back to the San Ysidro Port of Entry, where they’ll be given another screening to see if they fear returning to Mexico.

Even if they are returned, Jorge pledged to keep trying to get to safety in the United States.

“We’ll be here as long as necessary, because we cannot return to El Salvador,” he said.

An investigation into Marines accused of helping smuggle migrants into the United States led to the arrest Thursday of 16 of their fellow Marines at California's Camp Pendleton, just north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Plus, a San Diego-base SEAL platoon was pulled out of Iraq over disciplinary issues, construction jobs on MTS land will pay more under a new policy and the San Diego Symphony has signed a lease with the port for a new outdoor concert venue.