Let’s dispel once and for all with this fiction from Donald Trump that it’s “bad hombres” running amok across the U.S. The reality is, the immigrants here are like Veronica Zepeda, a woman who endured so much physical abuse in both her native El Salvador and Mexico, where she was nearly trafficked into sex work, that she made the conscious decision to leave her children with their abusive father in Mexico in order to seek refuge in the U.S. But instead of finding the help she’s desperately needed here, she’s remained locked up in an ICE facility in Bakersfield, California, since late January.
Even if she is not deported to face gang violence in El Salvador or to suffer domestic abuse in Mexico, she may be relegated to a second-class status of asylum by the federal government that will prohibit her from reuniting here with her children:
For now, she remains inside Mesa Verde. The 400-bed detention center is run by the for-profit prison company GEO Group, the nation’s largest private detention center operator, which earns at least $94.95 for every day she’s detained. Inside the facility, Zepeda cleans showers and toilets five days a week for $1 a day. “It’s $5 to call my kids,” she explains in an interview. “I call them once a week to know how they are doing, so that they know how I’m doing.”
Zepeda insists that when she was first taken into custody in 2013, she was not given a “credible fear” interview, which could have led to full asylum. Instead, she was processed with others who had recently crossed the border and deported to El Salvador, where her life had been in danger after witnessing a gang murder. From there she made her way back to Mexico to her children and abusive husband, where she managed to endure two more years until she sought refuge in the U.S. yet again. She’s been in detention since then fighting her case.
According to Mother Jones, there’s no exact number of how many of the 44,000 Central Americans who sought asylum in the U.S. in 2014 have been women fleeing gender-based violence, but what is known is that “women in the Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, as well as parts of Mexico, experience pervasive violence.”