Fatima stood in the check-in area of the El Paso airport, her infant daughter in her arms, ready to begin a long-delayed effort at life in the United States. “There are many, many different feelings right now,” she said.
She and her husband, Hector, and their four children lived in a Juárez shelter for almost two years after they attempted to enter the United States and apply for asylum in 2019. In spite of having been victims of a kidnapping-for-ransom scheme by Mexican police, they were enrolled in Migrant Protection Protocols (“Remain in Mexico”) and told to wait in Juárez for their court date – a date that was postponed several times due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The family asked that their real names not be used in this story for fear of retaliation. El Paso Matters first told their story in February.
On Thursday, the family from El Salvador walked across the Paso del Norte Bridge into El Paso. On Monday, they boarded a flight to reunite with Fatima’s mother, who has lived in the United States for more than 20 years. Fatima, 32, has not seen her mother since she was 11 years old.
“(The children) are happy that we are going to meet their grandmother, to talk to her in person and embrace her. It’s something very powerful, to be able to be together,” Hector said.
The three older children, ages 14, 10, and 5, were excited and nervous about their first trip on a plane. The baby was born last month in Mexico, just days after the Biden administration announced the end of MPP.
Fatima and Hector received last-minute instructions from their attorney before passing through the airport’s security checkpoint. They currently have a hearing in asylum court scheduled for November, but they are not yet sure if the change in venue will result in another delay in their case.
For now, they finally have some relief from the fear they have lived with for years.
“Now I feel much, much safer,” Fatima said.
“Everything (in the United States) is different than in Mexico,” Hector added. “Thank God everything has turned out OK and we are going to make a new life. I am with my family, my children, and everyone is well. We will just keep fighting.”
Cover photo: Fatima, center, holds her infant daughter as the family walks toward the airport security checkpoint. They entered the United States on Thursday after waiting in Juárez for almost two years. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)