Welcome To America: An Immigrant’s Story - Maria | Eatontown, NJ

Welcome To America: An Immigrant’s Story – Maria

In this episode of Welcome to America: An Immigrant’s Story, we will listen to Maria’s amazing story. She is a 25-year-old mother of two from Guatemala who made a perilous journey to America with her six-month-old son Mario to escape her abusive husband.


Maria met her husband in Guatemala when he got deployed near their town for research work. He is a US citizen and was an employee of the US government. She would often see him near their small family store. Eventually, the two fell in love, dated for almost a year, and finally decided to get married. 

Staying in Guatemala was convenient for both of them – the husband, close to his work, and Maria, close to her family. Shortly after their marriage, Maria gave birth to their lovely little Lupe. However, Lupe was later on diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and she took extra care in raising their precious one. 

Around that time, her husband started coming home late or would be gone for weeks. She knew that was part of the nature of his work. But on days he would be home, his mood was often sour and his temper short. Maria got scolded if the house was not clean or had things hurled at her when the food was not to his liking. 

Then came their second child, Mario – he was equally adorable. However, life became much more challenging as Maria cared for the house and her two kids. Maria’s husband became more abusive and controlling. He would not let Maria leave the house or contact her family, and he often beat her. 

Once, he tied Maria to the side of their bed and beat her with a mop handle. Little Mario began to cry, and Mario’s cries made her husband more agitated. Maria begged her husband not to hurt their child and promised to calm him down if he would release her. Fortunately, her husband did and allowed her to tend to Mario while he went out to get more drunk. 

Looking in a mirror, Maria checked her bruises and took a few pictures of them with her phone. That was the worst beating he had ever given her and the first time she feared for the safety of her children.  She felt hopeless and desperate. All she could do was cry. 

That night, Maria decided that she had to leave. Who knows how much more her husband is capable of? She feared for her life and the safety of her children. But where could she go? Her husband knew too many people in her town and the neighboring cities. He would easily find her there. The only safe place that came to her mind is… America. 

Maria prepared for her journey and stashed what money and supplies she could without being noticed. Lupe, now two, could not make the more than 2000-mile walk to America. Leaving Lupe behind broke her heart, but she knew she could not stay. So, she asked her grandmother to look after Lupe until she could come back for her. Maria and Mario then left to make their way to America and, hopefully, a better life.

She joined another group of migrants to make the trip, but the road to America was not easy. It was difficult and dangerous. Maria often relied on strangers’ kindness for food, water, and diapers for Mario. Many migrants traveling with her became ill, and there was no medical care. Many gave up and turned back. Others pushed on and fell victim to criminals, sex traffickers, and drug cartels. Maria even had to fight off a sexual assault while Mario lay nearby helplessly crying. 

The journey was treacherous. Maria questioned her decision to make the trip, but the hope of a better life for her children kept her moving.

Finally, after walking for what seemed like years, Maria and Mario reached the US border near El Paso, Texas, but their journey was far from over. She and Mario had to cross the Rio Grande River to get into the United States. 

At the river, Maria spoke to others who planned to cross. They told her that two small children had drowned in the swift-moving water the day before. Maria, once again, questioned if she had made the right decision. Was it worth risking Mario and her own life? She knew that staying where she was with an abusive drunk was no life at all and put her and the kids in danger. She did not know how her husband would react if she returned but knew it would not be good.

The following day, Maria and Mario prepared to cross the river with the others. She found a small piece of rope and tied one end around Mario’s waist and the other to her wrist. As they approached the banks of the river, she could see people struggling to make the crossing. They had found the shallowest spot, but the water still came up to her chest as she crossed. 

Maria held little Mario up out of the water to try and keep him dry, but without using her arms, she lost her balance. The two slipped beneath the water and began getting pulled down the river. She held onto Mario while trying to keep both of their heads above the water. It looked desperate for her and Mario. Maria was tired and felt like she could not go on. That is when she felt someone grab her, and she was pulled into the safety of an inflatable boat by members of the Texas National Guard.

Maria immediately stated that she was asking for asylum in the United States because she feared for her life if she was to return to her country. The guardsmen took Maria and Mario to shore on the US side of the Rio Grande, where she was allowed to dry off. 

After waiting for several hours, she and her son were offered a free bus ride to New York. Maria’s aunt lived in New Jersey, and she knew it was a short trip from New York to her home. Hours later, Maria and Mario were on a bus with many other immigrants to travel the many miles to what Maria believed would be a better life.

Little did she know that a new set of struggles was ahead for her.



What lies ahead for Maria as she attempts to start a new life in the safety of the United States?

Will she be able to live with her aunt? Will she be able to find a job? What will happen to Lupe?

Will Maria get deported, or will she get asylum, or is there something even better in store for her?

Next time, on Welcome to America, we will discuss many of the problems Maria will face when she reaches New York. How can she avoid problems, escape deportation, and what must she do to legally stay in the United States?


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