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Teen mom, newborn eye new life from Tijuana migrant shelter

Running The Columbian

TIJUANA, Mexico — The tiny, month-old boy slept soundly on the bottom bunk, seemingly undisturbed by the squealing Central American toddlers running by and a kitten leaping from the neighboring bed.
'TIJUANA, Mexico — The tiny, month-old boy slept soundly on the bottom bunk, seemingly undisturbed by the squealing Central American toddlers running by and a kitten leaping from the neighboring bed. About 25 people sleep in the cinderblock room crammed with seven bunkbeds at a Tijuana shelter overflowing with migrants, primarily from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador but also from as far away as Africa. Each bunk bed is like a makeshift home where families pass their days waiting — waiting for their number to be called at the U.S.-Mexico border so they can apply for asylum in the United States, or waiting on a Mexican visa to be able to work. More people arrive each day and now their future is even more uncertain. Under a new Trump administration policy announced last week, migrants who pass through another country — like Mexico — on their way to the U.S. will be ineligible for asylum. For 16-year-old Milagro de Jes?s Henr?quez Ayala, her cramped corner bunk covered in eight backpacks with donated diapers, toys and clothing is not the ideal spot for raising her newborn son, but it is the best place she has found since she left her violent homeland of El Salvador with her younger sister, Xiomara, after gangs threatened their family. The sisters, who were 15 and 13 at the time, were part of an untold number of Central American minors who traveled without their parents, accompanied only by other migrants, in a caravan that crossed Mexico and landed in this crime-ridden city in November. Henr?quez Ayala became pregnant by her then-boyfriend during the trip, before arriving in Tijuana. Even after that journey was over, life in the border city across from San Diego has been trying and held moments of fear. At four months pregnant, Henr?quez Ayala was living off cookies and juice. She started suffering abdominal pains and felt anxious, fearing Mexican officials would deport them. One day she discovered a bullet-riddled body outside the low-budget hotel where she and her sister cleaned rooms in exchange for lodging and the little bit of food. She almost miscarried. After she was taken to the emergency room, the girls moved to the shelter. When she was seven months pregnant, a Mexican smuggler infiltrated the shelter pretending to be another migrant and tried to pressure Henr?quez Ayala and her sister to cross the border illegally. She refused because she was worried it would put her at risk again of miscarrying. The smuggler took another teen girl from the shelter instead. Henr?quez Ayala has not heard from that girl since, and fears she may have been kidnapped. Henr?quez Ayala said she is no longer seeking the American Dream — at least not for now. She has finished the paperwork for a Mexican visa and is determined to build a life on the south side of the U.S.-Mexico border, though the lanky girl has no idea how she’ll do that. She left middle school and has almost no job skills, and now she must find work that allows her to be with her baby, Alexander. The girls’ father, Manuel Henr?quez, had left them after they crossed from Guatemala into Mexico to go on his own to the United States because he thought it was too dangerous with his teenage children in tow. But he was quickly detained and deported. Now he is with his daughters in Tijuana after Mexico granted him a one-year humanitarian visa. He earns about 200 pesos, or roughly $10 a day, selling woven bracelets. He lives at the shelter, too, and hopes to bring his remaining three adult children and three grandchildren in El Salvador to Mexico. Back home in San Salvador, the Central American nation’s capital, gang members had beaten him for refusing to make extortion payments on his bracelet-selling business. They also threatened the girls for walking into what they consider the gang’s territory on their way to school. “You can make money here but slowly,” said Manuel Henr?quez, 58. On a recent day, he wove bracelets for a group of U.S. teens from Knoxville, Tennessee, who were doing volunteer work at the shelter as part of their church service. Henr?quez Ayala bathed Alexander in a small plastic tub on the cement floor next to her bunk bed. Like all her baby’s belongings, it was donated by someone across the border. Alexander wiggled and cried as she gently washed his black hair. “I’m baptizing him,” she joked to the Rev. Albert Rivera, who runs the Agape Mision Mundial church. Rivera organized a protest and got human rights officials involved when the Tijuana hospital initially denied her father access to her after she gave birth. Tijuana, which has one of the highest homicide rates in Mexico, is not the dream she initially sought when she fled home. But she said it is better than the life she left behind. “I almost don’t like to come out of this room,” she said, smiling, standing in a narrow passage between the bunks. “I feel safe here. But I know I will have to leave someday and find a home.”'

A supermarket worker vanished 10 years ago. He was trapped behind a cooler the whole time

Running USA New Updates

When Larry Ely Murillo-Moncada’s parents last saw him on Nov. 28, 2009, he was running out of their house in Council Bluffs, Iowa, barefoot into the middle of a snowstorm.A missing persons report was filed. Calls were made to family friends. Fliers
'When Larry Ely Murillo-Moncada’s parents last saw him on Nov. 28, 2009, he was running out of their house in Council Bluffs, Iowa, barefoot into the middle of a snowstorm.A missing persons report was filed. Calls were made to family friends. Fliers popped up around the city located just east of Omaha. But the efforts yielded little information on the whereabouts of the 25-year-old, the Daily Nonpareil reported at the time. He appeared to have vanished.Now, almost a decade later, Murillo-Moncada’s family finally has some answers to their questions that have long surrounded the young man’s vexing disappearance. Where did he go? What happened to him?The Council Bluffs Police Department announced Monday that for all those years Murillo-Moncada had been less than a mile away from his home at a supermarket where he worked — trapped behind the store’s coolers.“You don’t hear about these types of cases, people found in walls, especially in this area,” Sgt. Brandon Danielson told KETV in Omaha, Nebraska. “We have missing persons all the time, but this is just unique.”A day before Murillo-Moncada disappeared, his mother, Ana, told the Daily Nonpareil through an interpreter, her son had come home after a Thanksgiving shift at the supermarket and seemed disoriented. She took him to the doctor’s office and he was prescribed an antidepressant, but the medication didn’t appear to help, the newspaper reported. The feeling of confusion persisted and Murillo-Moncada started to hear voices, Ana said. Then came the hallucinations.It’s so loud, there’s probably no way anyone heard him \t\t\t \t\t\t “He said somebody was following him, and he was scared,” said Maria Stockton, a friend of the family who served as the interpreter.At 6:15 p.m. on that frigid November day, Murillo-Moncada rushed out the door wearing no shoes or socks, dressed only in a navy blue hoodie and light blue pants, according to the Daily Nonpareil. He left behind his keys and car, Danielson told the Des Moines Register on Monday.Despite the combined efforts of his family and law enforcement officials, the case went cold until this year when workers arrived at the vacant No Frills Supermarkets store in January.The grocery store where Murillo-Moncada worked before he went missing shuttered in 2016, and a contractor had been called to remove its shelving units and coolers, police said in a statement Monday. In the roughly 18-inch gap between the wall and the coolers, the workers made a grisly discovery: a decaying body.“This is the first time in my career that I’ve seen a body in this type of condition,” Danielson, who was assigned to the case back in 2009, told KPTM in Omaha.Though the body was too badly decomposed for a visual identification to be made, Danielson said he immediately thought that he may have found Murillo-Moncada.Capt. Todd Weddum of the Council Bluffs Police Department told CNN that the clothes on the body matched what Murillo-Moncada was last seen wearing. Last week, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation used DNA from his parents to confirm that the remains were Murillo-Moncada.You don’t hear about these types of cases, people found in walls, especially in this area \t\t\t \t\t\t Investigators say they also now have an explanation for how Murillo-Moncada may have ended up behind the coolers.The supermarket’s former employees told police that they often climbed on top of the coolers into an area used mostly for storage, according to the release. Murillo-Moncada went to the store after leaving his house and scaled the coolers before falling about 12 feet into the space between the units and the wall, Danielson told the Register. The coolers made so much noise that Murillo-Moncada’s cries for help were likely muffled, Danielson said.“It’s so loud, there’s probably no way anyone heard him,” he said.An autopsy indicated that there were no signs of trauma, police said. The case is being closed and classified as an accidental death.Danielson told KPTM that authorities did visit the store early in the investigation, but Murillo-Moncada’s boss said he didn’t know where his employee had gone and hadn’t seen him that day. The boss noted that Murillo-Moncada also wasn’t scheduled to work then.But the police sergeant told KETV there was at least one person who suspected Murillo-Moncada had been in the store the whole time.“The mother, she kind of had an idea that he had never left the No Frills,” Danielson said. “I don’t know how she came up with that idea.”'