JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Poverty and rising street crime drove the male members of the Garcia household out of their home in Guatemala to look for jobs in the United States.
But it was a home invasion robbery attempt that forced Candelaria Priscila Garcia to grab her 4-year-old son and follow in their footsteps. The journey almost came to an end last December, when an overweight trailer packing more than 100 migrants in the cargo box overturned on a highway in Chiapas, Mexico, killing 55.
Garcia remembers holding on to her child amid pandemonium.
“It was not pretty to see all those who died. I don’t know why (I was spared). Only God knows why I lived. It was a miracle. The other miracle was that nothing happened to my son,” Garcia told Border Report during a March interview at the Good Samaritan migrant shelter in Juarez.
News photos from the accident show rows of white body bags and Mexican paramedics tending to people lying by the roadside.
Garcia said she hit her head when the trailer jackknifed. She was in a coma for two days and woke up with a gash on her forehead and bandages around her skull. Her son, Andy Damian, was at her side when she came to in a hospital bed in Chiapas. The two would call the medical facility home for the next 18 days before making Juarez their next stop.
After a few days of respite, the mother and her child tried to join their kin in Pennsylvania, but border agents told them the port was closed to asylum-seekers due to the Title 42 public health order and sent them back to Mexico. “They didn’t give me a chance to explain my case. They just sent me back,” she said.
Pastor Juan Fierro, founder and director of Good Samaritan, said the shelter houses two types of migrants: those who need a few days to think things over after being expelled with nothing but the clothes on their backs or before attempting to cross the border; and families settling in for the long term, awaiting a chance to apply for asylum due to personal hardship or fleeing criminals who tried to take what little they had.
“I remember the woman from Guatemala,” he said. “She almost lost her life and her son. But thank God she recovered, and the child was by her side.”
Garcia and her son were among a group of 70 migrants mostly from Central America who were recently exempted from Title 42 and allowed to present themselves at the El Paso, Texas, port of entry to initiate their asylum claims in the United States.
Mexican officials say more than 300 migrants have been exempted this month in Juarez alone. El Paso advocates say others who were encountered by border agents on the U.S. side also have won exemptions.
Garcia recently updated her social apps with a photograph in which she appears dressed up. She told friends she arrived at her destination.
Fierro says he’s happy for all of his former guests finally allowed to cross the border. He grew to know several since the U.S. government put Title 42 in place when the COVID-19 pandemic began, and most of the others when the pandemic began to wane and they arrived in Juarez hoping to cross into the United States.
“They risk so much along the way. They risk everything for a better life,” the Methodist pastor said.