Society

Pregnant Woman Zoila Figueroa Kidnapped and Tortured While Immigrating to America

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A woman from El Salvador was pregnant, and her family was living in Long Island. Left with limited options, she decided to pay men to help her across the U.S. border.

Little did she know, the men would end up holding her captive for days until her husband paid them a ransom.

Zoila Figueroa, 28, was taken by two men across the Rio Grande and into Texas. They were known as "coyotes," and she paid them $1,500 to help her get to America.

But after they threatened to kill her and take the baby out of her, her husband was made to pay $3,900 for her release. 

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This judge looked an inmate square in the eyes and did something that left the entire courtroom in tears:

"They were threatening me with a gun, pointed right to my stomach. They threatened me. They said if my husband didn't pay ransom they were going to take out my baby. They were going to take out the baby alive and then they were going to kill me," she said.

She paid them the initial fee in March of last year so she could return to her husband and son in Roosevelt, Long Island. 

The men she paid were called El Jefe and Juan. They drove her some of the way across a bridge that linked Reynosa, Mexico and Hidalgo, Texas, but they then stopped on the bridge to make her climb down a rope and into a sugar cane field.

Pregnant and scared, Figueroa lost hold of the rope and fell, injuring her back. 

The captors then blindfolded, bound and gagged her, keeping her in a trailer and giving her death threats.

It took three days for her husband to come up with the money. She was released once they received it, but has since been suffering with post traumatic stress disorder and agoraphobia.

Now, she is facing deportation from America unless she obtains a "U" visa. 

A "U" visa gives undocumented immigrants, who have been victims of a crime, ability to become legal residents if they cooperate with law enforcement. 

So far, she has cooperated with authorities in Hidalgo County, Texas, but they are not approving her paperwork. 

"This is a perfect example of how someone is not being protected even though they need it," her lawyer Bryan Johnson said.

Only 10,000 U visas are granted each year, and most are approved or denied solely on the attitudes in the city or police department where the crime was committed.

Years ago, Figueroa was living legally in America but returned to her native country with her American-born son. Because the boy is autistic, she thought spending time in El Salvador with her family would help.

But the country is extremely crime-ridden and she worried about their safety. She put her son on a plane to New York and paid the men to take her to Texas.

"Since I've been back from there, I haven't done anything but cry. I shut myself up inside and am depressed," she said. "I feel like I'm being harassed, that they are insulting me all the time. I feel really, really bad."

Sources: Daily Mail, NY Daily News