Wealthy Mexican avocado grower, 23 relatives granted permission to enter U.S., seek asylum

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TIJUANA (Border Report) — Long before the sun came out, the Peña family had their bags packed. For them, it was literally the dawn of a new era.

All 23 of them were loaded onto several vehicles headed for the San Ysidro Port of Entry and ultimately the United States, where they now have pending asylum cases.

Members of the Peña family getting ready to cross the border into San Diego. (Jorge Nieto/Special to Border Report)

Back in July, Agustin Peña spoke with reporters at a shelter in Tijuana after a kidnapping attempt forced him from his hometown in the Mexican state of Michoacan.

Agustin Peña talks to reporters as he leaves shelter in Tijuana bound for a new life in the United States. (Jorge Nieto/Special to Border Report)

Peña said it was the last straw and decided to move his family out of the area, even though it meant leaving everything behind, including his big house on a hill, avocado groves and a packing plant with hundreds of employees.

Drug cartels have been fighting for control of the lucrative avocado industry in that part of Mexico and have wreaked chaos on growers and residents alike.

“We’ve known death, extortion, kidnappings and we just don’t want to go through that again,” Peña.

Over the course of several months, Peña said, he started moving his aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and the 93-year-old matriarch of his family to Tijuana.

He was the last to arrive at the border.

They ended up in a shelter with hundreds of other migrants and asked for asylum.

And even as they look forward to a new life, they can’t but help look over their shoulder.

“We know that at any moment they can burn down our packing plant or the vehicles we used to transport avocados, our houses but we had no choice,” he said.

Agustin Peña was so happy about being allowed into the U.S. he was signing about it. (Jorge Nieto/Special to Border Report.

Peña hopes he’ll get remain in the avocado business in California, importing avocados from his hometown and other regions in Mexico.

“I have a lot of working relationships in the industry in both Mexico and California,” he said

Peña would not say exactly where he plans on setting up shop, all he would only say is that he is happy about getting the chance to seek new opportunities in the U.S.

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The mission of BorderReport.com is to provide real-time delivery of the untold local stories about people living, working and migrating along the U.S. border with Mexico. The information is gathered by experienced and trusted Nexstar Media Group journalists hired specifically to cover the border.