What Would It Take To Feel Safe?

My border reporting focused on a monumental change in Mexico — a constitutional overhaul of the country’s justice system. I interviewed lawyers and judges, I visited the morgue in Ciudad Juarez and rode along with the police in Tijuana.

I was trying to understand the intricacies of Mexico’s legal system, and how and whether this reform is working to reduce impunity and increase transparency, to strengthen the rule of law. Those are big words, abstractions, really.

It wasn’t until I met a couple at a migrant shelter in Juarez, that the meaning of those words hit home.

Lorena and Eloy were born and raised in the mountains of Guerrero, in southern Mexico. It’s where their parents and grandparents were born. They met in high school and started a family. They had a house and a little land, and Eloy drove a truck.

But in the past few years, criminal organizations have fractured their community, making life unbearable. Eloy said he can’t drive down to the state capital in the flatlands because, as a man from the Sierra, he could be killed. Lorena said her children can’t go to school anymore because the teachers have been scared away.

After two cousins were killed and the bodies burned, Eloy and Lorena took their three kids and boarded a bus north, thinking perhaps they could find safety in the United States, if not in Mexico.

What would it take to feel safe? Police who would respond when crime was reported. Prosecutors who would investigate. Defense attorneys who would represent them if they were ever charged. Judges who would rule fairly.

But Eloy and Lorena don’t trust the police to help them, or the courts. They feel there is little rule of law in Guerrero. So they’ve left their home and their relatives, left the only piece of earth they’ve ever known, the place where their ancestors are buried.

“We didn’t want to leave,” said Lorena. But they’re migrating — in hopes of keeping their children safe.

– Tyche Hendricks, 2019 U.S.-Mexico Border Fellow