Maria Lidia - Editorial

38 images Created 10 May 2019

It’s 4pm and lunchtime in Maria Lidia Meza Castro's new house in the U.S. The kids have just returned home from school and Castro is dishing out the chicken and rice she has spent the morning preparing. There is a bright, yellow light cutting through the living room window where everyone is sitting by the table eating frantically, stealing each other’s sodas or sweets, remnants of previous visitors.

A few minutes later, the kids run off to play upstairs. The living room is left empty with grains of rice all over. The second floor takes on a life of its own: Scattered screams come from inside the closet as the children play hide and seek. Moments later whining tears over a Lego fight turn into the youngest hitting his sister in the face.

She stands up and returns back into the kitchen where a pile of dishes awaits her before she has to wash the children and put all five of them to sleep. The next day will start again soon with a 6:00 am alarm.

“Thank God we are safe here. I feel good here. I feel calm here,” said Castro. “I cannot go back to Honduras. I have too many problems there. I came here because this is a country where I believed I would be able to raise my children safely. Thank God they are already going to school!”

I met Castro for the first time on November 21, 2018 on the road from Mexicali to Tijuana, Mexico. She was walking the last leg toward the U.S./Mexico border as one of the 5,000 plus Central American migrants traveling with the caravan. She told me she fled San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in October 2018 with her five youngest children, because her 13-year-old daughter had started to be threatened by the Maras, the local Mafia, who wanted her to sell drugs and start engaging in prostitution. Castro’s abusive husband had left three years prior and she’d been raising her children alone in Honduras since.

Castro reached Tijuana last November. It was there that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers fired tear gas canisters at migrants rushing toward the U.S. border. Following the incident, Castro and a group of fellow migrants were escorted to the Otay Mesa port of entry with the assistance of the nonprofit group Families Belong Together and two Democratic members of Congress who also helped her apply for asylum. After making it through the border, she and her children were detained for five days before being released to live in the Washington area, close to where Castro has family.

For the past four months Castro and her family have lived in a house in the suburbs of the country’s capital while her attorneys are starting to gather all the documentation necessary for her asylum plea, which could take up to 18 months to be granted. Until then, she can’t get a job because of her legal status and the immigration officer that pays weekly visits to her home advise her not to leave the house, fearful ICE agents may detain her. She is constantly monitored by an ISAP (Intensive Supervision Appearance Program) with an ankle bracelet.
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