After a treacherous journey from Guatemala, one undocumented family says they found themselves in harm's way once again after they were placed in a Santee shelter, where they allege their daughter was sexually assaulted.
Like many other undocumented immigrants she fears deportation. Still, that did not stop this 39-year-old Guatemalan mother and her family from coming to the U.S. illegally.
She does not want us to disclose her identity but told NBC 7 that her family was escaping violence when they crossed the San Ysidro border crossing.
She said gangs threatened to kill her sons if they did not join them, that they nearly beat her husband to death and that they even gang raped her daughter.
“The night that happened we knew we had to leave,” said the mother of four.
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For nearly a month, the mother, father, their three sons and daughter traveled by train across Mexico.
Originally hoping to cross into Texas, they had to take a bus to Tijuana after being robbed in Mexico City. She told NBC 7 they turned themselves into customs agents at the San Ysidro border crossing.
They said their biggest risk yet came when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) referred them to a shelter in Santee.
That is where the mother claims her 23-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted while sleeping.
"I don't know what happened or if they gave us something to make us sleep, then not tell us what happened," said the mother. "All I remember is that my daughter felt the man touching her, then the man took off running."
The evangelical pastor who oversees the home told NBC 7 the allegations are false.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department says detectives have been assigned to the case and that the investigation is ongoing.
“This facility was totally inappropriate, “said Enrique Morones, who heads up Border Angels, a San Diego-based immigrant rights group.
The family reached out to Border Angels after the alleged incident, and for nearly two weeks, they have been staying with a host family in Lemon Grove.
"For a lot of these families, it really is a humanitarian crisis. They cannot be sent back [to Guatemala], they'll be killed,” added Morones.
Although they are grateful to have a place to stay, their only hope now is that they will not have to return to Guatemala.
“Leaving Guatemala has been the most difficult part. But I just hope we can be reunited with my husband and my son soon. We just need to be together so we can move on with our lives,” said the undocumented Central American immigrant.
As of Monday, the father of the family and their oldest son, an 18-year-old, are still being held in detention centers in El Centro and Otay Mesa.
A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement admits the agency does partner with non-governmental organizations.
She also says that they will refer some families to those organizations if they need a place to stay.
NBC 7 is still waiting to hear from ICE about whether the shelter in Santee is through one of their partnerships. The family is seeking legal counsel to fight their case.