Paola

 

El Salvador

Asylum Seeker

 

I never wanted to come to the United States. I attended dance school and one day I had three consecutive dance performances. At that time there was a young man from the military school who wanted me to be his girlfriend but I was not interested. After the dance performances I was waiting for my cousin to pick me up but he never came. I was very tired. One of this guy’s friends told me he would take me home so I didn’t have any alternative. I knew him because I had been at his sister’s fifteenth birthday party (quincenera) so I went with him. When I got in the car the other guy was there. He offered me my favorite juice, which was in a juice box, and I just drank it. I remember that I fell asleep or fainted and didn’t wake up until the next day. I woke up in a place I didn’t recognize, an old house. The house smelled of liquor and marijuana. My dance costume was lying next to me.

I heard a knock on the door. It was the police who were looking for me. They brought me to my home. I was living with my grandmother as my mother was living in the US. My grandmother and my cousins were there and they were all crying. The scolded me and accused me of going out with a boy and staying out all night. I didn’t say anything. My whole body hurt; my legs hurt so badly I could hardly walk. My family ostracized me and I had to leave. I had an uncle take me to Guatemala. I then asked my uncle’s partners to help me get to Mexico. From the Guatemalan side I got on a raft with four worn out tires and a wooden platform and made it across to Mexico.

It was a very long dangerous journey but eventually I made it across Mexico and crossed another river into the United States. We hid under bushes but when we thought it was safe to start walking again, we were found and arrested. They put us through medical exams and that’s when I found out I was pregnant! And that is when I asked for asylum.

I had to tell my story so many times that I learned not to cry anymore.

When I arrived here, I stayed with my mother. I was afraid to leave home and I didn’t for over a year. When Kimberly was born my mother named her. When I turned 18, I decided with my mother’s encouragement to return to school. A psychologist I was seeing told me about a school I could attend where there was childcare for my daughter. I am taking all the classes required to graduate high school.

My dream has always been to study forensic medicine. In one year I will graduate from high school they take us to different colleges so we can find the best programs for us. I found a forensic medicine programs at San Jose Community College and hope to go there in a year.

I know there is a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment. I would want to know what these people would do if they were in our shoes? How would you feel if the door was shut in your face by a country that has always welcomed refugees? We are all humans and we deserve another opportunity when things in or home country are desperate.

Lately, I have been feeling sad because I miss my mother. When I got here, she helped me so much. She was deported 2 years ago even though she had been renewing her work permit. She was told the law had changed and they deported her. I really miss her.