Yolani's Struggle for Safety

Yolani fled a life-threatening situation in her home state of Honduras, making the treacherous journey north to seek protection in the United States. However, due to the discriminatory Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), Yolani was forced to remain in Mexico, separated from her husband and daughter. This is Yolani’s story.


In this video, provided by SBCC member Kino Border Initiative, Yolani shares the trauma of being returned to Mexico through the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). Over a year later, she is still in Nogales waiting to seek protection in the United States and be reunited with her husband and daughter.

Yolani’s family had never considered leaving until 2018 when gang members in her neighborhood in San Pedro Sula, Honduras attempted to kidnap her oldest daughter. Her husband decided to file a report with the police, which served as the catalyst for threats against her family. “That is like asking for your own death sentence,” says Yolani. Because of the deep-rooted corruption and collaboration between the gangs and the police, pressing charges made their family a target. Out of desperation, her husband and oldest daughter fled San Pedro Sula on August 3rd of 2018, eventually making it to San Antonio, Texas where they are today in asylum proceedings. Yolani and her youngest daughter, Yovely stayed behind in San Pedro Sula.

But the threats continued.


“We thought that if my older daughter was gone and somewhere safe, that [the threats] would stop,” she says, explaining that they had every intention of staying in San Pedro Sula with Yovely to be close to family. “But they came to the house looking for him”, she explains. She tried to not answer their questions about her husband’s whereabouts, of which she was legitimately unaware. For safety reasons, she and her husband had completely cut off communication while he and her older daughter sought protection, first in Guatemala and then in the United States.

One evening in San Pedro Sula, several months after her husband and older daughter had left Honduras, two gang members came into her home and assaulted Yovely. Yolani’s brother was there, and upon witnessing this, attacked one of the men so they would stop. “That, too, was his sentence.” Four days later, they found his body. At the burial, the men who killed her brother approached Yolani and admitted to the murder, insisting that she not tell anyone, otherwise she would “pay the same price.”

Out of fear, Yolani and Yovely fled from San Pedro Sula.

They first migrated to Copan, Honduras, where they stayed for a few months, and then moved on to Santa Barbara, Honduras attempting to find a place in the country where they could resettle and feel safe. “I changed the SIM card in my phone, but they still called,” she says. Finally, a friend called to warn her that the gangs knew where she was and they were coming for her. That’s when Yolani knew she needed to leave Honduras, and she and her daughter fled in January of 2020.


They continued North with the intent to make it to San Antonio, Texas to be reunited with her husband and older daughter. A couple weeks later, nearing the US-Mexico border, they were kidnapped near Caborca, Sonora which were “two days of terror and panic,” Yolani says. While held hostage, their kidnappers called her husband and demanded ransom money so that she and her daughter would be released.

Upon receiving the money, they were taken to the physical US-Mexico border and dropped off in the darkness of the night. “Follow the lights,” her kidnappers told her--the headlights of a Border Patrol truck. Yolani and Yovely walked through the desert, making their way towards the headlights. They approached the truck and told the Border Patrol agents they were claiming asylum but never imagined that doing so would mean being returned to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols where they have been waiting since January of 2020.

While in Nogales, Yolani has witnessed the democratic nomination, a presidential election, Biden’s campaign victory, inauguration day, and President Biden’ immediate Executive Order that suspended new MPP enrollments. But, she is still in Nogales. On February 12th, the Biden Administration committed to processing the 25,000 asylum seekers with active MPP cases. Now, Yolani is simply awaiting her day to be processed, urging the Biden Administration to #SaveAsylum so that those like her and the thousands of other asylum seekers who have been denied due process can seek protection in the U.S.

In Yolani’s Own Words

We have suffered so much and we continue to suffer every day that we spend waiting in Nogales. We left our countries fleeing from persecution, violence, corruption, and even death itself and they expose us to the same thing, throwing us into the same danger from which we fled. Living in Nogales IS NOT LIVING — psychologically and physically it is exhausting and traumatic. Most of the immigrants live in poverty, lacking health, education, and many without a roof over them at night, exposed while sleeping in cemeteries, parks, and sidewalks. #NotOneMoreDay with MPP.

MPP is an inhumane program because we flee from danger and we are thrown into the same or worse danger, depriving us of safety, peace of mind, and a security future for our children. They have us here without consideration for seeing us in a situation without money, with nowhere to go, to get disoriented and at the mercy of crime and danger that is seen every day in Nogales.

Now with the triumph of Biden, we know of his promise to terminate MPP. We feel very hopeful and with more faith in God and in the new administration that everything will improve, the pilgrimage will soon end, and many of us will achieve the safety and tranquility we long for.

And if the Biden administration does not comply, it will be devastating and desperate for us. It is not an option to return to our countries. For many it is certain torture and death. So therefore, every day counts and we no longer want to and cannot wait any longer. We deserve a safer life. #NotOneMoreDay to access the asylum system because we have rights. Now my hope and everyone's hope is that President-elect Biden will be the one to #SaveAsylum.

My family and I participate in the #SaveAsylum campaign because we need to be heard and not forgotten.


It’s time to stop these decades of dangerous border policies that have violated human rights and civil liberties, separated families, criminalized migrants and have now led to the deployment of border patrol agents throughout the country. A New Border Vision is a framework for governing our borders that expands public safety, protects human rights, and welcomes all people who live, work or travel to the region. Learn more here.


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