Orwellian Stories: Camila, Ashley, Isaac, Yeimi


Image by Patrick Hoesly. Used under Creative Commons license.

Every single immigrant and refugee has a story, and those stories too often get lost in today’s Orwellian immigration discourse. The official slogans of the government of Oceania in Orwell’s 1984 are inscribed on monuments and broadcast through state television that blares in every home: “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.” Today the U.S. government claims to care about immigrant children, to protect refugees, and to honor family values. Sounds a lot like Oceania. 


Today, the government of the United States sends asylum-seeking children and parents back to the deadliest city in Mexico to wait there for years while their asylum cases are pending. The Trump administration calls this policy the Migrant Protection Protocol. Esmerelda calls it too much.

“During the interview, when the [asylum] officer said I had to wait in Mexico, I started crying. My youngest son said, ‘Mama, don’t cry’, but I couldn’t stop,” said a woman who identified herself only by her middle name, Esmerelda. She was one of the mothers who was turned back Wednesday as a part of the new policy.

“She said she and her three children fled El Salvador after the country’s powerful 18th Street gang tried to recruit her 11-year-old son.

“It was too much. I told [the officer] I had nowhere to go, and he just shrugged and looked at me like I was crazy,” she said.”


Camila came to the United States last year seeking protection. As a trans woman in El Salvador, she was threatened with death and could find no protection. Now she’s dead.

“She migrated to the U.S. because of threats that she had received, but she was deported because they didn’t believe her,” Aislinn Odaly’s, an independent LGBTI rights advocate, told the Blade.

“Camila is the second trans women reported killed in El Salvador this month….

“The increase in anti-LGBTI hate crimes and the lack of prosecution of them has sparked increased fear among community members.”


Almost six million U.S. citizen children live with at least one undocumented parent. They are just one traffic stop, one workplace raid, away from losing that parent to deportation. When a parent is deported, they face the agonizing choice of leaving children behind or taking them  back to their home countries, countries the children have never seen. Ashley is one of 600,000 U.S. citizen children of undocumented Mexican parents who now live in Mexico.

“Like Ashley, American students in Mexico frequently end up in rural schools, the ones with the fewest resources to help them. No public schools offer Spanish as a Second Language classes, and less than 5 percent of their teachers speak any English. Many families, especially if they were deported unexpectedly, have trouble assembling and authenticating all the various documents that are needed to enroll, which means that kids end up missing months or even years of instruction. Some never return to a classroom. Students are often ineligible for health insurance and other benefits that their Mexican counterparts get. (“We usually think of [these families] as undocumented in the United States, but we never think of them as undocumented in Mexico,” one researcher told me.) It all adds up to a rough transition for most kids: American transplants will be much more likely than local students to miss significant time in school, to be in a low grade for their age, to dislike school, to feel alienated from their teachers, and to drop out.”


Isaac Molina should have a good chance at being granted asylum: Nicaraguan police who abducted and tried to kill him because he is a doctor and had treated gunshot victims, regardless of their politics. Even though his story is well documented, even though the Trump administration denounces the Nicaraguan government as repressive, even though he still needs medical care for his wounds, U.S. immigration authorities put him in prison.

“On a December morning in Tijuana, Isaac Molina and his family stood in a line of migrants waiting to be allowed into the United States to seek asylum. His case for protection was thoroughly documented—the gunshot wounds in his abdomen and back, at the hands of the Nicaraguan police, were more tangible evidence than most asylum-seekers have—and he assumed their four-month journey from Nicaragua was coming to an end.

“Seven weeks later, Molina is incarcerated in a prison in Mississippi for the crime of making a legal claim for asylum….

“Since Mississippi does not have a history of immigration detention, access to legal counsel at Tallahatchie is severely limited; the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s website lists no immigration attorneys within 50 miles of the prison….

“The painful irony for Molina is that he fled to the United States after defying a regime that the Trump administration has criticized and targeted with economic sanctions. But it has made no difference to ICE. If he ultimately receives asylum, ICE will have spent untold thousands of dollars keeping him apart from his family for months for no purpose.”


The Trump administration says it stopped separating children from their parents last June, after prolonged protest and international outrage. They lied.

“In El Paso on Monday, on the day Donald Trump held a rally in the border city, a mother sobbed as she told how she arrived in the US from Honduras last October and had her two daughters, aged five and three, taken away from her without explanation.

“It was a month before she was allowed to speak to her girls, by phone, and then see them for one hour a week. They were reunited after four months and are now staying in El Paso, in western Texas, while authorities process the asylum application of their mother, Yeimi, who asked to withhold her last name out of security concerns.

“Taylor Levy, legal coordinator for Annunciation House, said Yeimi’s case is not an anomaly. She said Annunciation House receives one or two calls a week about new cases of family separations – and that is just cases their agency knows about in the El Paso area.”  

The United States is a safe haven for refugees. Family values protect children. War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.


About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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