Twenty years ago, Hami Torres fled Mexico at age 13, her 11-year-old brother in tow. Terrified, they trekked for hours with a group of older strangers through desert scrub that slashed Hami’s bare legs bloody. Then the two children were folded into the spare-tire compartment of a car for the drive across the border.
The Torres children had left their home country to reunite with their mother and stepfather, who had entered the United States three months before. Yet once the children made it to this country, the ordeal wasn’t over. They lived in a crime-ravaged neighborhood where Hami was expected to join a gang for protection. She constantly feared being found by immigration authorities, always looking over her shoulder for officials who might find out she was undocumented.