Patience And Powerlessness As Mother Awaits Son Seeking Asylum In U.S.

Last year, a woman from El Salvador traveled to the U.S. border, seeking asylum. This year, her teenage son made the same journey.
Veronica Aguilar looks at a photo of her family in El Salvador in the Moriartys' living room in Pinole on Nov. 18, 2018. Aguilar, an asylum applicant, traveled to the U.S. border in a caravan last year. (Farida Jhabvala Romero/KQED)

In a sunlit kitchen in a suburb east of San Francisco, Veronica Aguilar was helping bake a cake one recent afternoon. She dipped her finger in the batter and smiled approvingly.

“Chocolate! Mmm,” she said.

But the baking project provided only a brief distraction. Aguilar kept checking her cellphone, anxiously awaiting news from her mother and 15-year-old son. They had just arrived in Tijuana, after traveling from El Salvador and joining a caravan with thousands of other Central Americans.

Aguilar, 36, knew the perils and hardships of their journey. Last fall, she fled death threats from gangs near her home in San Salvador and joined a smaller caravan of about 350 people crossing Mexico. She said she was so nervous at the beginning of the trek that her stomach hurt.

After she made it to the Tijuana-San Diego border crossing, Aguilar sought asylum from U.S. officials. She said she was jailed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for

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