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She brought her husband’s killers to justice. She fled so her family wouldn’t pay the price.

By Ash Kosiewicz
Rebeca Alfaro shares her story at Oxfam America's International Women's Day Event this past March. Photo: Becky Davis/Oxfam America

As thousands of families flee Central America for safety in the US, Salvadoran immigrant Rebeca Alfaro is speaking out.

When Rebeca Alfaro fled El Salvador more than 10 years ago, it came down to a simple calculus. “Live or die,” she recalled during a WBUR event in March honoring the strength of Central American women.

She chose life. And in 2009, Alfaro started on a journey to the US that thousands of mothers from Central America are still taking to this day.

Why did Rebeca flee?

On May 4, 2007, Salvadoran gang members killed Alfaro’s husband. An outspoken critic of gang violence in his community, he crossed the street one day to buy tortillas. He never made it back, gunned down in broad daylight.

Witnesses helped identify his killers, and Alfaro cooperated with local authorities. She showed up for every court date demanding justice, filing police reports about death threats against her family. The harassment continued, including letters from the perpetrators in their jail cells. Their message—stop what you are doing or else.

She didn’t. The day after her husband’s killers were sentenced to 15-18 years in jail, the same gangs murdered her mother. She was eating lunch at home with her two sisters when they broke down the door and started shooting.

Alfaro suddenly felt alone—with her two young daughters.

Where did Rebeca go?

Despite not knowing what lay ahead, Alfaro fled her home for the US. She believed that God would protect her family—not for her sake, but that of her daughters.

She made her way to Mexico. Her hope was to build a life in the US, then call for her children. After years in Mexico, Alfaro finally made it across the border. And in 2015, she found the support of Oxfam’s Boston-based partner Centro Presente, which fights for immigrant rights and helps reunite separated families in the Latino community.

Ever since, she has shared her story at rallies and events to give voice to the tens of thousands of families who are now migrating to the US because of violence. “If I can be an example, if I can help someone move forward, I will do it,” she said.

How does Oxfam help mothers like Rebeca?

According to a new report by Centro Presente, a woman is murdered every 19 hours in El Salvador. One-third of its people live in poverty, and the country suffers from high levels of corruption and inequality.

Here’s how Oxfam works with people like you to help families in crisis from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Oxfam America CEO Abby Maxman stands alongside Alfaro on International Women's Day this past March. Photo: Becky Davis/Oxfam America
  • In-country, Oxfam tackles the root causes of why people like Rebeca are forced to migrate. We invest in community-based programs that address sexual and gender-based violence, invest in sustainable development, fight corruption, and increase access to justice.
  • When families leave for the US, we provide humanitarian aid at migrant shelters along their journey. This assistance includes hygiene kits, food, clean water, portable toilets, and showers.
  • When families arrive at the US southern border, we advocate for public policies that provide humane treatment and recognize their legal right to seek asylum under national and international law.

Stand up for Central American families like Rebeca’s. Tell the Trump administration not to cut lifesaving foreign aid to Central America.

Sign this petition

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