Night after night for six weeks, Erika Hernández knelt outside her home in central Mexico and prayed: “Please, God, don’t let my son turn into a criminal.”
“I prayed a lot. I fasted. My faith was huge,” said the 46-year-old woman, fearing her son would be forcibly recruited by a criminal organization.
It didn’t take long for God to listen, Hernández said. By early June, after being kidnapped by members of the Familia Michoacana drug cartel near Mexico City, her son escaped and the family fled north hoping to cross in the United States.
For many migrants like Hernández, their faith has been essential for coping with their challenging circumstances.
Hernández and 10 of her relatives spent three months hopping on buses, taxis and walking until they reached the Movimiento Juventud shelter in Tijuana, in northern Mexico, where they are awaiting an opportunity to find a safer home in America.
Before her son’s kidnapping, the idea of migrating to the United States had never crossed Hernández’s mind. Her family owned cattle and several tracts of farmland. They had a good life.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in early October that about 10,000 migrants per day were heading to the U.S. border. Waves of people riding atop railway cars forced Mexico’s largest railroad to suspend dozens of freight trains.
While many places in Mexico provide shelter for Venezuelans, Haitians and Central Americans, some shelters in Tijuana have seen an influx of Mexicans fleeing violence, extortion and threats by organized crime.