From Mexico to the U.S., Martha Still Struggles to Feel Safe

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“Everything was big, everything was tall and shiny. Everything was developed.” That was Martha's first impression of the United States. “It was everything I wanted to see in my city.”

Martha is from the Mexican city of Tampico in the state of Tamaulipas. “My city is very small,” Martha says, “it is a port city. We have a beach, it is very nice, it is a beautiful place,” but the increasing insecurity pushed Martha to move out. 

Martha arrived in Washington, D.C., in January 2016 for an internship after recently graduating in International Business. She aims for a career in international development and eventually to return to Mexico “to help and make an impact.”

“I decided to come to the United States because I feel that here it is a place to take action... I want to take actions towards the issues that I see in societies,” Martha says.

Before coming to the U.S., Martha had to move inside her country to a safer town, far from the war of drug cartels. In 2012, she left her hometown, Tampico, for Santiago de Queretaro. 

“I was not safe in my city. I had to move out and study somewhere else where I could have a normal life,” Martha says. “I moved alone because my family had their own business. The most difficult part was being scared even in the most safest areas. I would walk in the streets and still be scared of every noise or suspicious activity.”

She goes on: “at the beginning, it was hard to get used to it and to understand that I was not in danger anymore.”

Yet, until now Martha bears the psychological marks of living in fear. “It is still hard for me to walk at night and feel safe in the U.S. I am scared and I don't know if it is something psychological that I brought with me from my home country,” she says.

Nonetheless, Martha feels lucky because she was able to come legally to the U.S. unlike millions of illegal immigrants who, she says, are poorly treated. “I have seen how illegal immigrants are looked at and treated. It makes me mad because they have no rights. No one should feel they worth less,” Martha says. 

Martha has a wish, she insists to share. “I hope that women and children worldwide will stop being in situation where they need to migrate. And if they do migrate, it is because they want to travel and want to see what's in the world, not because they need to escape from their economic realities or from insecurity.”