LOS ANGELES – After crossing the Rio Grande as part of the massive wave of children fleeing Central America, siblings Jose and Arleth Pocop are now enjoying asylum in the US after living in fear of being detained and deported for several years.
The children – ages 11 and 12 – spent a month in a shelter supervised by Immigration and Customs Enforcement before being released into the care of their mother, Vanesa Pineda, who immediately requested asylum for them due to the domestic abuse to which they were subjected at the home of her ex-mother-in-law in Guatemala.
“To have gotten political asylum makes me very happy because now I’m not afraid to walk the streets, and if an ICE policeman looks at me I’m not going to be afraid,” Arleth told EFE.
“I felt terrified to go out on the street with my mom, because I felt like they could come to grab me and throw me in that cooler that they have there,” the student said.
The Pocop kids, who now live in Los Angeles, emigrated from Escuintla during the wave of Central American kids who – along with Mexican children – comprised the record 68,541 people detained by Customs and Border Protection in 2014.
“I felt scared because I thought that immigration was going to detain me and send me back to Guatemala and I wasn’t going to see my mom again,” Jose told EFE.
The youngster has won scholastic recognition in mathematics and reading, and – along with his sister – has had a perfect attendance record.
The pair speak English and thus didn’t need an interpreter in their final interview with an immigration official.
Their 31-year-old mother immigrated to the US in 2012 to seek employment so that she could provide a better future for her children, whom she left in the care of her ex-mother-in-law.
She said she made the decision to have them brought to the US by a female “coyote” (people smuggler) because of the lack of security in Guatemala and because she felt that her relatives there “were not giving them a good life.”
“My kids stayed on the street a lot, they didn’t give them anything to eat, they treated them badly,” the mother said, adding that she was afraid that they’d get involved in “drugs, gangs, that they’d become criminals.”
According to DHS figures, 530,250 illegal immigrants were apprehended in 2016 during the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency, of which 450,954 ended up being deported, a figure that is projected to increase in 2017 under his successor, Donald Trump.