Here is a asylum story with a bona fide happy ending—although there are challenges ahead. It involves a grandma, a woman who deserves a gold star for bravery, and her three grandchildren ages 5, 7, and 9.
Javier met them at El Chaparral about five weeks ago. They had just arrived from Ensenada and were planning to cross the border. Javier took one look at the kids and knew something terrible had happened to them.
The paternal grandma, a U.S. citizen, crossed from her home in California to get the kids after getting a call from the maternal grandma saying her daughter, a drug dealer affiliated with a gang of very bad people, was severely abusing and neglecting the kids. She'd leave them alone in the house for five days at a time with no food and physically abuse them when she was there. So the grandma came down and boldly rescued the kids. The children’s biological father, also a U.S. citizen in the U.S., couldn’t come himself, because he was in the hospital recovering from a stroke and was not yet able to travel.
When Javier saw the kids that day, he said they were so scared that they cowered like puppies who have been kicked. They could not speak. Their bodies and clothes were so dirty that they smelled horribly. He immediately took them to a hotel where they would be safe and the kids could shower. Meanwhile, he went out and bought them all new clothes, underwear, and shoes.
The next morning he met with the grandma and then called me. We agreed that they needed to be safe, so he brought them all to La Casa, COVID be damned. The grandma didn’t realize that she couldn’t just walk back across the border with them. She needed the children’s birth certificates and proof of the abuse and neglect, so the next day she went back to get the birth certificates from the house and a copy of the police report with photos. All the while the gang of very bad people was actively looking for the kids. It’s hard to understate the bravery of this woman. It took its toll, however. In the course of the month, her health deteriorated, physically and emotionally. Javier had to take her to the doctor three times and paid for medications the doctor prescribed for her.
After a few days at La Casa, the kids began to relax little by little. Javier played with them, talked with them. They wanted to learn English, so he devised an English lesson for them every night and later took them all to a shelter in the daytime that offered English classes. After about four days, the oldest girl said, "Javier, we feel safe with you."
One Sunday he called an Uber and took them all to Playas (the beach in Tijuana) for the day. The kids played in the water, he bought them all churros and later dinner, and they basically had the kind of happy play day that all kids deserve to have. On other days he took them to the park and on Halloween they went to a party at a day shelter.
He needed to deliver masks to a shelter one day, so the grandma and kids came along and helped hand out the masks. He found out the shelter needed food, so they all went food shopping and delivered it to the shelter. That day the kids got to be helpers and not just recipients of help.
Meanwhile, he was taking the grandma to the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana and getting nowhere. We realized it was too complicated and urgent a process to undertake without the help of a lawyer. The big stumbling block being that the oldest child was a U.S. citizen, but the two little ones were not. Thanks to the help of someone in the U.S. whom I knew from the border, I found an immigration attorney in California willing to help them immediately pro bono.
After doing everything I could from here to facilitate communication between the attorney, Javier, and the grandma, and with Javier and the grandma making trips back and forth to the Consulate, she finally had the forms she needed to be signed by her son and then notarized. She crossed the border, traveled home, got the papers signed and notarized, and returned to Tijuana. We assumed that she would simply get the kids and then cross into the U.S. with them, but oh no! She was told that she needed passports for all three kids at $125 (US) each!
She said later that she didn’t feel she could ask Javier for anything more, that they had already been at La Casa for a month and he’d paid for everything during this time. Luckily, we decided to check on her. Javier found out she thought her only option would be to live in a car with the kids so they could travel around, since it would be too dangerous for them to stay in one place.
This is true. These kids were in extreme danger from Day 1. When a parent is involved with drugs and gangs in Mexico, it is common for the kids to be abducted, killed, and their body parts sold.
When Javier found out what had happened, he called me and we immediately agreed to pay for the passports so they could cross the border as soon as possible. He got the money, took an Uber to pick them up, and they all went immediately to the U.S. Consulate, but it was Friday and they were closing early. Monday was a bank holiday, so they would have to wait until Tuesday. He took them all back to La Casa.
On the weekend they once again went to Playas for Border Church. The kids wrote messages on rocks to place in the garden there. Their rocks said how much they wanted to see their dad again.
hey put their hands on the wall in a part of the service that always makes me cry. With arms raised on the wall, everyone is reminded that the wall separates us, but then, with arms raised to the sky, to remember that it is el cielo, the sky, that unites us.
On Tuesday, Nov. 17, they returned with Javier to the U.S. Consulate. This time they told her she also needed several other forms that all cost money, so the grand total was now $600 (US$)! Javier went to get the additional money, which thankfully we had, returned, and all was well—except that the Consulate’s computers were down all day, so they couldn’t print out anything. They returned early Wednesday morning, got everything, and she and the kids left that afternoon.
Javier said it was hard for him not to cry when he said good-bye to the kids, but he does such a good job in situations like this. He said he’d been telling the kids that they have a chance for a good life now, that it’s important for them to be good people and to get as much education as they can, that they can be doctors and lawyers—whatever they want. They might even be President one day! He told them that it was very important not to get involved with drugs or gangs and to take good care of their grandma and always do what she says, because she loves them and has done a lot for them.
Today is Thursday. Javier called the grandma to check, and she sent this photo, so we know they are now home.
When Javier called me last night, he said, “Sharon, we saved three children’s lives.”
It’s hard to talk through tears.
The grandma is keeping in touch with the lawyer, and he is committed to keeping track of the kids and checking in with the family. He and I text often. He is amazing. The kids are SO anxious to see their dad, and his recovery will be so bolstered by having his kids with him. They talked to him on the phone during this month a couple times every day.
Today Javier was cleaning up the house and found notes the two girls left for him under the iPad they used. The oldest girl wrote, “Javier, thank you for everything. When we grow up, we are going to bring you something that you want. I am going to come back for you and we want you to be on the Blue Team. Happy New Year and Merry Christmas.” (Javier explained that when they would watch Survivor on TV, the kids were always the Blue team, so he would be the Red team. Now they want him to be on their team.)
And on the heart from the seven-year-old girl: “Javier, Thank you for everything. God bless you. Thank you for paying for the passports.”