After near half a year in a detention center, Milexy Gavidia was granted the right to stay in America. It’s a heart-warming story made all the more so when considering that her long battle to stay ended two days before Thanksgiving.
32-year old Gavidia and her sons had been held in an immigrant detention center in New Mexico. Once granted her stay, they headed out to Louisiana to be with Gavidia’s boyfriend. It is the first step of Gavidia’s dreams of an exciting new life.
In Honduras, Gavidia was a successful businesswoman, owner of a bookstore. She sold school supplies and, with her sisters, sold fried plantains. It was her political leanings that led to Gavidia fleeing her native country. Volunteering as a community organizer, she was working on the campaign for the town’s future mayor when she began getting threatening telephone calls. She believed these threats were coming from violent gangs. “They are the only ones that do this. They told me I deserved to die.”
The gangs in Honduras are credited for reprehensible violence. “In my town people are killed or they simply disappear. Nobody says anything because to open your mouth is a death sentence.”
That she could be in trouble magnified when Gavidia found her pig and dog dead. They had been poisoned. Not long after, a friend that was also involved in the mayoral campaign was killed.
Escaping To Freedom?
Fearful for her safety and that of her family, Gavidia decided to flee. Her boyfriend borrowed $9,000 to get Gavidia and her sons smuggled out of Honduras. At the Rio Grande, she, her sons and a dozen others climbed into an inflatable raft. Reaching U.S. soil, they turned themselves over to Border Patrol. As if her situation weren’t already tenuous, in route to the New Mexico detention center, Gavidia’s bus was hit by lightning. No one was injured.
The detention center was in Artesia. It was only a month old and part of the Mexican government’s program to manage a mass influx of Central Americans at the southern border. Not surprisingly, though grateful to be in the land of the free, Gavidia and her children weren’t living the rich life America offered. She said her time in Artesia was the worst of her life.
Before she retained legal representation, Gavidia’s claims for asylum were dismissed. Legal aide must have been a relief. Gavidia had seen in the vicinity of 200 families deported and was despondent about her chances before a team of volunteer lawyers came to New Mexico. One of them took her case.
Three months later, she was granted asylum. Sharing the news, Gavidia cried with her fellow detainees. “Partly because they were happy for me and partly because their own futures were so uncertain.”
The irony of her new future happening two days before the Thanksgiving holiday wasn’t overlooked. End of the day, the holiday is about immigration. It’s the story of natives and immigrants coming together in hopes of sharing a prosperous future, the dream of everyone that comes to America.
Gavidia has strong opinions about her stay in New Mexico. She strongly opposes the detaining of families, calling it an “inhumane” reaction to illegal immigration. She does not believe it is an effective means for stopping anyone that wants to leave their native lands, especially for those in dire straits. “I knew the journey to the United States would be risky. But my life in Honduras was already at risk. And I’d rather die fighting than die defeated.”
Gavidia’s is not the only success story to come out of Artesia. Since their arrival, the team of volunteer attorneys have won 10 out of 10 cases.