Jennifer Ramírez knows it would be suicide to remain in El Salvador.
A former member of the Barrio 18 street gang, she spent two years as a protected witness, testifying against her former associates. When the trials came to an end, she was released from protective custody to the mercy of the streets.
Even the judge told her to run.
Ramírez, now 24, was adopted into the gang as an eight-year-old orphan, but said that she decided to testify against her former associates when she became pregnant.
“Now I just want to find a safe place where I can work and send money home for my daughter so she can have a different life than me,” she said.
Last year, Ramírez made it to the United States twice, only to be caught and deported each time. When she set out again this year, she discovered that it has now become as hard to enter Mexico as it is to cross the heavily policed US border.
On her previous attempts, she said, it took three days to reach the migrant shelter in Ixtepec, about 150 miles into Mexico. This time she had spent nearly a month, walking most of the way, sleeping rough most nights – and one occasion only just escaping Mexican immigration officials who shot her with a Taser.
“It has got really difficult to move even a few kilometers,” Ramirez said.