They’d all traveled hundreds of miles — by bus, by train, on foot. All had left their homes and scrounged for food and braved the rain and the chill to make it to the US border crossing at Tijuana, Mexico. And they all planned to seek asylum in the United States.
But someone had to be at the front of the line. And in end, they picked her.
Gabriela Hernandez, a pregnant mother of two whose journey CNN has followed, was among eight people chosen Monday by her fellow migrants to begin the process of seeking asylum in the United States.
Hernandez had fled a threat of violence in Honduras with her sons, ages 6 and 2. But after a month on the road — just as they reached the port of entry at San Ysidro — officials there said they’d reached capacity and were “temporarily unable to bring additional persons traveling without appropriate entry documentation into the port of entry for processing.”
Dozens of migrants vowed to camp outside the center, just a stone’s hurl from San Diego, until “every last one is admitted into the United States,” an organizer said.
When customs officials on Monday again began processing the cases of people they termed “undocumented arrivals,” the migrants looked among themselves for who should step to the fore.
They picked eight, including Hernandez.
‘I cannot go back to my country’
She’d come 3,000 miles to get to this place, a kindergartner and a toddler in tow as a third little one, in just its second trimester, grew in her belly.
Hernandez had left her husband because of domestic abuse. But then gang members found her and demanded to know where he was. They gave her 12 hours before, they said, they’d kill her 6-year-old.
That night, she took the boys and ran north.
A month later, she was among the chosen few being processed by US officials at the border, representatives from the groups Pueblo Sin Fronteras and Human Rights First said Monday night.
Her plan had been to claim asylum, given the danger to her life and her children in Honduras. Still, she knew all along, it held no guarantees.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said. “I cannot go back to my country.”