BY CHRISTIAN COLON — “Fue la gota que derramó el vaso,” Spanish for the drop that overflowed the cup. That is how Mauricio Jaramillo described the morning he was kidnapped a year and a half ago on the freeway, heading to his job in Caracas, Venezuela. He parked and made a quick pit stop on the side of road. Company pickup truck still running, Jaramillo opened the driver seat door and headed for the woods. Barely two steps out of his car, two armed men ambushed him, threatened and forced him back inside and took control of his truck. “Inside, that is where it all began,” he said. Jaramillo, clueless to where they were going, arrived to his destination after they drove for what felt like hours. While captured, he was interrogated and extorted. The abduction was the final push Jaramillo needed to leave his native country and seek asylum in the United States.
BY NICOLE LAFOND — Katia Marie Ramos is experiencing depression for the first time in her life. It’s not been fueled by the loss of her home, which, last she saw it, stood in the suburbs of San Juan, Puerto Rico, with nothing left but a few upright walls, loose wires and a tangled tarp for a roof. It wasn’t ignited by the panic she experienced while she rode out Category Four Hurricane Maria in her friend’s home, clutching her four-year-old daughter to her chest. It’s not because she lost her job after the building where she worked as a security guard was destroyed in the storm, or the fact that she had to sell all of her belongings, including her car, in order to purchase a plane ticket to evacuate to the mainland after the storm. Ramos is one of 4,000 Puerto Rican families being put up in hotels in 41 states by the federal government after their homes were destroyed or deemed unlivable by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) when Hurricane Maria struck on September 20. She and her daughter are also one of hundreds of families who will be further displaced when FEMA cuts off their federal transitional assistance next month.
BY MARIE CENTRIC — It’s been 26 years since Osman Chowdhury was almost killed by a gang in Bangladesh and fled to the United States. Chowdhury said he is still scared of being killed when he goes back to his native country. Chowdhury was 24 in 1991, when seven young men attacked him in Chittagong, in Southern Bangladesh, surprising him in second floor government office. They broke his nose and tried strangle him with his tie, he said. Chowdhury managed to escape, ran out to the streets and made it to a police station. “I had to save my life,” Chowdhury, now 52, said with a trembling voice. But the seven attackers pursued him inside the precinct, and officers were afraid of them and refused to press charges, Chowdhury said.
BY DAVID JEANS — Since 2013, smugglers and human traffickers have lured almost 300,000 Ethiopian and Somali refugees to cross the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden with promises of security and economic opportunities. More than 400 people have died during the journey since 2013, according to the United Nations. But the inflow of refugees poses a complicated exigency for humanitarian efforts working to stabilize the country — as Yemeni’s flee their own country in the opposite direction toward the Horn of Africa.
BY MARIA MARTINEZ — Samer woke early each morning to go to work, like most people. But each day, Samer feared that he might be killed on his way to his job at the Arab bank in the rebel-held section of Damascus. Each day, Samer was stopped at six government checkpoints. At each stop, the fear of death hung low over his head. It was a long journey to work.
BY SUMMER LIN — Mohamed, a former chef from Syria, can still remember the moment he received the call from the UN telling him that he and his family had been approved to move to the United States. “They said ready or not, you’re going to America tomorrow,” he said in Arabic, through a translator.