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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

News that a 7-year-old girl died "of dehydration and shock" in Border Patrol custody last week has focused attention on the dangers migrants and asylum-seekers face while attempting to reach safety.

EG, a successful asylum-seeker from El Salvador, spoke to Axios via interpreter Antonia Basu and asked that her name be withheld for her safety. EG left El Salvador in early September 2015 along with her 8-year-old daughter and 15-year-old nephew. The nephew, under EGs care since her sister died, resisted recruitment efforts by a local gang. In retaliation, the gang demanded money, damaged their car and threatened to kill the family, EG told Axios.

EG refused to pay. She decided to flee to the U.S. — eventually becoming one of more than 18,000 Salvadorans who claimed asylum in the U.S. that year.

The big picture:

  • The U.S. has long had some of the highest numbers of pending asylum requests in the world, and last year it received more than any other nation largely due to an increase in Central American claims, according to UNHCR.
  • Over the past few year, more than 70% of Honduran, Salvadoran and Guatemalan asylum-seekers have been denied defensive asylum in the U.S.
  • 3,456 migrant deaths worldwide were recorded in 2018, according to the Missing Migrants Project.
  • A majority of these migrant fatalities occur along the Mediterranean, followed by 509 deaths recorded in the Americas this year.

EG's journey:

  • EG paid for a brutal 20-day bus trip with limited access to food. "It was a lot of suffering for the children," she said.
  • The group reached the U.S. border on Sept. 24, where they were detained and EG was separated from her nephew.
  • On Oct. 16, 2015, reunited with her nephew, EG was released. Two years after reaching the border, EG was officially granted asylum.
  • Her nephew's case, however, is still pending. He's one of more than 600,000 asylum-seekers waiting for an asylum decision in the U.S., per UNHCR.

When we talked late on a Thursday afternoon, EG was about to leave for work. Her daughter was still at school. Truthfully, she said, she is happy she came to the U.S. despite the traumatic experience because of the opportunity her children now have. She wants people to know that asylum-seekers are not coming to take American jobs or steal or hurt people, they’re just hoping for a better life.

Go deeper: How the U.S. asylum process works

Go deeper

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Credit: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

1 hour ago - World

Zelensky questions U.S. warnings of "imminent" invasion in Biden call

Biden and Zelensky at the White House last October. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a back-and-forth in their call this evening about just how "imminent" the threat of a Russian invasion might be, according to three sources briefed on the call.

Why it matters: Biden has said previously that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin will probably "move in" to Ukraine, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday afternoon that "an invasion could come at any time."

Democrats stiff Biden as poll numbers hit low point

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Democrats in swing states and vulnerable districts in this year's pivotal midterms are distancing themselves from President Biden on social media as his poll numbers hit their lowest point.

Why it matters: The digital distance is one sign of the concern candidates feel about a person they'd normally embrace. Incumbent presidents — including one who believes he needs to come to their hometowns to sell his message — would normally be political gold for candidates from the same party.