With the Birth of Her First Son Just Days Away, 15-Year-Old Salvadoran Girl Who Fled from Gang Violence Dreams of Becoming an Attorney
By Manuel Ocaño
Fifteen-year-old Milagro de Jesús had to flee El Salvador with her younger sister, age 13, after being told by MS13 gang members that they were both “chosen” to become their girlfriends.
When Milagro’s father tried to talk to the gang members to ask them to leave his daughters alone, they beat him so badly he could hardly stand up.
“That’s when we decided we had to run, and my dad said to go to Tijuana, and from there we could cross to the U.S.,” says Milagro just one week away from her due date to deliver her Mexican baby-to-be.
Things, however, did not go as the father and daughters had planned. Upon entering Mexico, they got stuck at a roadblock and were unable to proceed but could not afford to go back either. Back home, they faced retaliation from the gang members and, according to Milagro “the police there do nothing, it’s like they work for the gangs.”
Their father decided to split up and try his luck alone to get to the U.S., get a job, and use the money he’d earn to help the rest of his family. Unfortunately for him, he was arrested while crossing into San Diego and deported back to El Salvador, where he left from again as soon as his plane touched down.
Meanwhile, both Milagro and her sister joined a caravan that had crossed into Mexico and traveled as unaccompanied minors to Tijuana, where they hoped to meet up with their father, unaware that he had been deported.
When their father attempted to cross again from Guatemala into Mexico, he was detained because he had already crossed before with a Mexican permit only to be deported. He is now stuck in Chiapas, Mexico, where he has to show up to sign his presence each week, without permission to leave the state.
Now, Milagro has decided to remain in Mexico and petition for asylum in Tijuana. Although she says she always wanted her baby, she acknowledges being harassed because of it since leaving El Salvador, both by private individuals and by public officials. “They have called us all kinds of names… my sister too.”
“It has been difficult for me, because practically the only family support I’ve had has been my little sister. It was very hard to tell mom, then dad, what was going on, but I think they’ve understood, and they support me, even though they’re far away,” shares Milagro.
Now, although she is about to give birth in a few days, she wants to go back to school, since she left her high school unfinished, while her sister was just in elementary school when they had to flee together.
“Because of everything I’ve seen,” says Milagro, “from the time I was living in El Salvador, to everything I saw during the journey and all the suffering migrants and the people we met along the way go through, I would like to study law.”
Although the 15-year-old is a witness in a pending case regarding the disappearance of young migrant women in Tijuana, the accused Guatemalan smuggler (“coyote”) is still living free because authorities discount Milagro’s account because of her age.
She will have to work while she studies and hopes her younger sister can help her care for the baby she is expecting to welcome into the world in the coming days. She says she will name the baby Alexander Adonai.
This past Mother’s Day, Milagro was the most celebrated mom.