- Associated Press - Friday, March 1, 2019

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) - Milagro de Jesus Henriquez Ayala rubs her slightly protruding belly and giggles at her unborn son’s constant kicks.

The 15-year-old Salvadoran girl is staying at a shelter in Tijuana with her 13-year-old sister, Xiomara - part of an untold number of Central American youths who traveled with a migrant caravan that crossed Mexico and landed in this crime-ridden city in November.

The girls joined the caravan so they could meet their father, who had left them in Mexico’s southern border city of Tapachula in August while he tried to get to the United States.

But when they arrived in Tijuana, they heard from family back home in El Salvador that their father had crossed the border and ended up deported.

They now are unsure of where to go.

Milagro says they no longer need their father: She’s about to become a parent herself and considers herself something of a mother to Xiomara after being forced to care for her on her own.

With Milagro nearly six months pregnant, the girls are too afraid to cross the border wall topped with concertina wire.

They also fear being deported to El Salvador, though their parents are there. Back home, gang members had beaten up their father and threatened them for walking into what they consider the gang’s territory on their way to school.

The sisters traveled with about two dozen other young people as a kind of subgroup of the caravan, which grew to more than 5,000 people. Once in Tijuana, the group scattered, and some crossed into the United States illegally. Others were detained in Mexico and deported.

The sisters moved from shelter to shelter, fearing being deported by Mexican authorities. They ended up at a hotel that charged less than $2 night. With no money, they offered to clean rooms in exchange for lodging.

Their diet was mostly juice and cookies.

Milagro grew weak and after suffering abdominal pains went to the emergency room.

Since then she and her sister have been taken in by a minister who has converted part of his Agape Mision Mundial church into a shelter.

She is doing well there and has a new boyfriend, a 17-year-old Honduran named Josue Javier Medina Lucero who also was part of the caravan, fleeing gang violence. Like the girls, he is alone with no papers, making it difficult to get work.

Pastor Albert Rivera said he is working with the Salvadoran consulate to get the girls’ birth certificates so they can apply for asylum in Mexcio, attend school and find part-time work. He also is trying to get their mother a Mexican visa so she can come to Tijuana. A San Diego woman has offered to pay for the mother’s plane ticket.

Milagro would like her mother there for when she gives birth.

“I never thought I would be a mother so young,” Milagro said. “But it’s Ok. I’ll give him love. That’s all one needs.”

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