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An Affectionate Act That Almost Put Her in Prison

I came to know Jazmín’s story through a press release from Tijuana’s Municipal Police. Regional media published the official version of the story practically in its entirety, without questions. The weekly investigative newspaper where I used to work asked me to dig a little deeper into this case. The police file had the phone number of Sonia Reyes, Jasmín’s mother, so I called her to request an interview with her daughter.

Jazmín, who was in custody a few days before, agreed to meet me in a crowded restaurant in downtown Tijuana: surrounded by dozens of strangers, in a public place, she felt more secure. She told me that her mother – who had also somehow starred in this story – would come with her, basically because she didn’t know me, and because everything that had happened in recent weeks had given her cause not to trust anyone. I recognized them because they were sitting in the middle of the restaurant, visibly nervous. They were constantly turning to other tables as if trying to recognize among the diners a security agent, or something like that. But once they saw me they seemed to relax and proceeded to tell me their version of events.

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Theirs was a complete contrast to what the authorities claimed had happened: the policemen asserted that Tanisha King had given Jazmín and Sonia $200 to take care of the two children, and both flatly denied it. Jazmín’s eyes expressed a combination of fear, anger and helplessness. There, seated and six months pregnant, this woman didn’t seem to be the ‘alleged undocumented people trafficker‘ as the regional media had described her. Rather, in the tone of her voice and the way she expressed herself, I could see that Jazmín was a person with a real genuine interest in the future of the two Nigerian siblings, and that her concern was motivated by neither money nor power.

They insisted again and again, throughout the interview, that they would like to see the children, wanted to know how they were, that they missed them. Jazmín’s son, who is similar in age to the Nigerian siblings, had gotten along well with them. They slept in the same room, shared toys, skated together, had walks on the beach, played soccer. He missed them too. He had gotten used to having two new friends, and the Nigerian siblings had gotten used to family life with Jazmín and Sonia. They claim that the children didn’t want to return to Nigeria, that the kids had a premonition that things would not go well if they went back. They would be killed, as their father had been killed in Belize. They were scared. But Jazmín had no idea of ​​all they had encountered on their way from Africa.

It was then that the physician, a friend of the family who spoke English, showed up. He was the first person to really get to know the children and what they had been though. They decided it was time to speak with the authorities, and here the story took an unexpected turn.

The last I heard of the siblings was that, after a couple of months in a shelter for minors in Tijuana, they were sent back to Nigeria and a grandmother there who would take care of them. I never heard from Jazmín and her mother again.

* Jorge D’Garay is the producer of the episode The Orphans

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