An Asylum-Seeker Talks About Fleeing Domestic Violence
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The country continues to grapple with the results of the Trump administration's hard immigration measures. There is growing outrage over the U.S. government's detention of migrant children, including separating immigrant children from their parents. And Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this week most migrants fleeing domestic or gang violence will not qualify for asylum in the United States. That is a change from the Obama administration's policy to grant asylum to women fleeing domestic violence. And the announcement leaves many women in a state of uncertainty.
Here is Sinthia from Honduras.
SINTHIA: (Through interpreter) When I was 13 years old, I met the father of my son.
SIMON: But soon after they married, he became abusive and violent. Sinthia asked NPR to use only her first name out of safety concerns. She fled Honduras with her 5-year-old son in 2013. She now lives near Dallas-Fort Worth and will have an asylum hearing next year. Our colleague Kristina Kalla (ph) interpreted as Sinthia told us why she left home.
SINTHIA: (Through interpreter) He got more aggressive. He hit me with belts, electric cables, shoes, his feet. Whatever he could find and was in his reach he would hit me with.
SIMON: So you'd left the house. How did you decide to come to the United States and not just go elsewhere in Honduras - maybe to a family member's house?
SINTHIA: (Through interpreter) I escaped. I was almost a year with my family, and he started to look for me with them. But thank God my parents, neighbors recognized him. And they told me that he came various times to look for me, so I didn't feel comfortable anymore. I thought he was going to find me and that he was going to take my life.
SIMON: Did you feel that if you could get to the United States you'd be safe?
SINTHIA: (Through interpreter) I thought yes, the United States is a country of a lot of opportunities, and it's a place where you can find help for people like me who are in situations like this. So I did think that I would be safer in this country than in my country.
SIMON: So you've heard about the announcement by the attorney general that domestic and gang violence aren't going to be considered grounds for asylum anymore.
SINTHIA: (Through interpreter) More or less, I have heard what he said, and I think it's something unjust because we come to the United States looking for a better life because we're in fear for our own lives.
SIMON: You're worried that this might affect you?
SINTHIA: (Through interpreter) Yes, because the new administration has changed a lot of things, and I respect that everyone has their right to their opinion and thinking different ways. But I think that they should put their hands on their heart or really think about the fact that there are people that need a refuge in this country.
SIMON: And what do you say to those Americans who might be listening now who say, look - I feel sorry for you, but you broke the law?
SINTHIA: (Through interpreter) Honestly, I accept that crossing a border illegally is breaking a law. But what would he do in my situation? And you want to live. You don't want to lose your life. I would say, what decision would you make? Would you break the law, or would you just let yourself die?
SIMON: How's your son?
SINTHIA: (Through interpreter) He's 9 years old now. And thank God he's doing very well. He's enjoying school, and he's enjoying life. That's what I most fight for - for him to have a better life and for me to be able to give him something more.
SIMON: Sinthia, an asylum seeker, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Good luck to you. Thank you so much for speaking with us.
SINTHIA: (Through interpreter) Thank you so much to you. And I hope that other people can do like what you're doing, which is to try and understand our story, to have a conscience and tell the stories of people like us and for caring about Latinos.
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