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One Year After They Arrived In Iowa City, Honduran Asylum Seekers Are Hopeful For New Year

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Kate Payne/IPR file
One year after a mother and her young son arrived in Iowa City seeking asylum, they're adjusting to their new lives and hopeful for what the New Year may bring.

On Christmas Day of 2018, a Honduran mother and her young son arrived in Iowa City, after fleeing gang violence in their home country. One year later, their asylum request is still pending, but they’re feeling hopeful for the New Year.

Jaky Torres Toro says she and her son Isaac fled their home in Choloma, Honduras due to threats of gang violence and a lack of medicine for Isaac’s health condition.  

She says she made the decision to leave her other children behind in order to seek safety and find healthcare for Isaac.

“I don’t have regrets, I don’t have doubts. Because right now if I would be in Honduras, I would not be able to help my children,” she said through an interpreter. “But if I am here I can support them to go to school.”

They joined a caravan of migrants making the trek of thousands of miles through Central America and into Mexico. Through a chance meeting, they heard about the Iowa City Catholic Worker House and were put in contact with an organizer there. They arrived at the house on Christmas Day, thankful for shelter but too late to celebrate on Christmas Eve night, when many Latinos celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

This year, Torres Toro has been able to enjoy the season, and decorated the Christmas tree herself.

One year after she and her son landed in Iowa City, Torres Toro says Isaac is healthy, doing well in school and is learning to play guitar.

“Isaac says he is feeling so, so well,” she said through an interpreter. “Now he is so happy because he is taking a guitar class and he is so excited because he wants to learn to sing and play.”

“Right now it’s his dreams,” she said, laughing. “I don’t know…but it’s his dreams.”

In addition to helping her son adjust to their new life in Iowa, Torres Toro herself has become involved in politics in the state, speaking at a presidential candidate forum and participating in meetings with Rep. Dave Loebsack, Democratic presidential candidate and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, and with Bishop Thomas Zinkula, along with other organizers from the Iowa City Catholic Worker House.

Heading into the New Year, Torres Toro says she is eager to work, to support herself and Isaac, and their family in Honduras.

“Hopefully next year I can work and work for my family. They are expecting some support and I want to help my family,” she said through an interpreter. “My mom and my brother, actually my brother has a physical condition and he is not able to work. So they depend on me.”

While Torres Toro says she doesn’t regret the decision to seek safety in the United States, she says it’s very difficult to be so far away from her other children and family members.

“I talk with my oldest son and I know he understands and I used tell him, I am doing all this because of them. If I will have stayed in Honduras maybe I would have been killed and they would be orphans,” she said through an interpreter. “In this way I can help them.”

“He says, ‘Yes I know Mami, I know. I know we are going to make it’,” she said.

Torres Toro’s asylum request is still pending. She has a date with an immigration judge in January.