Single mother expelled to Mexico recalls lessons learned from her journey

In June of this year, with only the clothes on her back, a gallon of water and a little bit of food, 49-year-old Maria Torres, a Mexican immigrant from the state of Chihuahua, left her children behind with her sister and crossed the U.S.’s southern border in Sasabe, Ariz., to begin her trek north through the Sonoran Desert in hopes of reaching her family in Phoenix.

Video Transcript

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MARIA TORRES: [SPANISH]

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- 49-year-old Maria Torres was born in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. At the age of four, her family moved to Agua Prieta, a Mexican border city that neighbors Douglas, Arizona. Growing up, Maria said that her view every day was a huge wall that divided the two countries. Maria said that, even at a young age, the international boundary line was a reminder that she lived on the wrong side of the rustic border fence.

MARIA TORRES: [SPANISH]

- Maria is a single mother of three children working a 9:00 to 5:00 job, barely scraping by earning 200 pesos an hour packing candy bags at a candy shop. That's $9.46 US an hour for every two weeks. Maria said the economic hardships living in her country are simply not enough for food, let alone putting her kids through a good education.

MARIA TORRES: [SPANISH]

- In June of this year, with only the clothes that she had on her back, with one gallon of water in her hand and little to no food, Maria left her children behind with her sister and decided to cross the southern border in Sasabe, Arizona, to begin her trek through the Sonoran desert in hopes of reaching Phoenix.

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MARIA TORRES: [SPANISH]

- Hours of walking under the scorching sun, Maria said some in her group became ill, too weak to continue the trek. Others, deciding it's better to return back to Mexico than to die a slow death out in these terrains.

MARIA TORRES: [SPANISH]

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DORA RODRIGUEZ: Sasabe, Arizona is a town for like 500 people, I mean like 50 families or so. Sonora is another very rural town, and the population of locals is like 1,500. But it goes higher with migrants, you know, around the town because it's a spot where people cross. So a lot of people is waiting in there until the smugglers, you know, send them to the terrible area in the desert.

- Dora Rodriguez, a humanitarian aid worker in Southern Arizona, founded this resource center in Sasabe called Casa Esperanza, which translates to Home of Hope, after she realized during one of her visits to the border community hundreds of migrants being dropped off by border patrol under Title 42.

DORA RODRIGUEZ: Border patrol was deporting 150 people or more a day in that remote area. When I say remote, it means there is nothing of services, you know? There's no transportation. There is no hospital. There is no shelter. There's nothing. And like I said, every time it's only the organized crime that is waiting for these people, who again get convinced and go back. So it was a crisis because that town doesn't have what it takes to handle 700 migrants or more a week.

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- Aware of the dangers the journey to the US has, like hundreds of asylum seekers in Maria's shoes, she said she'll try again next year. She said that's how dire the economic hardships are in Mexico, that she's willing to risk her life in search for the so-called American dream.

MARIA TORRES: [SPANISH]

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