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Mother, Son Flee El Salvador; Begin Asylum Process In The U.S.


And as we approach the end of the year, we've been hearing from people who've been uprooted in 2015 - millions around the globe by war, gangs and famine. One of them is Rosa. That's her middle name. She doesn't want her full name used because she fears for both her own and her 13-year-old son's safety. Rosa is 33 and a single mother from El Salvador. She fled with her son from the capital city, San Salvador, last summer.

ROSA: (Through interpreter) I left of the 22nd of July from my country. We arrive at the border on the 31st of July. We were detained by the border patrol and taken to the cooler.

MONTAGNE: The cooler, that's what Rosa calls the detention facility in which she was held by border control before being transferred to another holding facility run by ICE - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ROSA: (Through interpreter) I was taken from my son and placed in a detention center for women. We were badly treated, but I was strong because God was with me. I told God, don't leave me. But imagine seeing me with shackles on my feet, my hands, a waist chain, like I was a criminal. I always rely on God. And each morning, when I looked up, I told God, I am a strong woman, a brave woman and I'm going to fight.

MONTAGNE: Rosa and her son were eventually released from detention. They are now in Virginia staying with a relative while they seek asylum. According to Rosa, she had no choice but to leave El Salvador. She says a few members of the powerful gang MS-13 had threatened to kidnap her son if she didn't pay them $500. Rosa did not have the money so she went to the police. One gang member was arrested, but the police warned her they could not protect her from the others.

ROSA: (Through interpreter) The police, they told me the best thing is for me to disappear because in El Salvador, I was dead. And so I decided to take the road to here. I've been told I have to wait. I still don't have a lawyer for my asylum case, and I'm worried because I only have a year to make it - a year, no more, to fight for my asylum. And I'm afraid to return to my country. But I did all this for my son. I don't regret it. I didn't come here for luxuries, only to save the life of my son, like other mothers who took the road here.

MONTAGNE: That's Rosa, who with her son fled El Salvador last summer. NPR did reach out to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for a statement on separation at family detention centers. The agency declined to comment. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.

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