SAN DIEGO — Dulce Rosario-Rojas met her future husband, Phillip Caldwell, in Alabama 14 years ago.
Caldwell was a U.S. citizen. Rosario was an undocumented Mexican national. They both worked at the same construction company.
“I fell in love with him by the way he treated me,” Rosario said during an interview in Balboa Park.
At first, their relationship was difficult because Rosario did not speak English.
“Every time he asked me something, I just ran to go some other place. I left him there in the place,” she said with a smile.
A few years later, Rosario was deported. Caldwell followed her to Chiapas, Mexico where she became pregnant with their first child, Jayda.
“When I got pregnant, he was so happy,” Rosario recalled.
Caldwell began to split his time between the U.S. and Mexico, earning money to care for his growing family.
“Money wasn't the first thing important for me. I never cared about money and having everything. I was happy just to have a happy family,” she said.
As conditions worsened in Chiapas, Caldwell wanted his family to be safe, so they decided to migrate to the United States. Dulce requested asylum at the border and she also submitted a green card application as the wife of a U.S. citizen.
They waited four months for her number to be called, using all their money to move into a small, rental home in a dangerous section of Tijuana, called Tres de Octubre.
Rosario and her three children – ages two, seven, and ten – crossed through San Ysidro Port of Entry on August 16.
Her husband, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident four years ago, stayed behind to wait at the rental house in Tres de Octubre. Caldwell planned to join his family when they were released from detention in San Diego.
“He said, ‘Okay, baby, bye.’ And, I didn't say bye. I didn’t say bye because I was sad and I was hoping for him to come with us that morning,” Rosario said.
Two days later, the 40-year-old husband was murdered in a mass shooting that occurred in a house next door to the family’s rental unit.
“It’s very hard,” Rosario said.
Police believe the suspects were targeting someone else. Six people died, including Caldwell.
“They don’t care who pays for it. They just want revenge and keep that inside their heart. I know when that happens, innocent people die, like my husband,” she said.
Caldwell’s body has been in a Tijuana morgue for almost two weeks. The family does not have the financial means to hire a funeral home. Caldwell’s father, William Caldwell, lives in Fresno. He would like to transport the remains for burial in Alabama.
The family received a quote of $6,200 to cover mortuary services, transport via van to San Diego, funeral services locally, and air transportation to Alabama.
San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher is helping to raise money to repatriate Caldwell’s body.
“It’s just a heartbreaking situation and it seems like the least we can do is step up and give them the dignity of a final goodbye,” said Supervisor Fletcher.
Fletcher has created a GoFundMe page under his own name in an effort to raise funds to support the family.
Fletcher’s office is encouraging people to donate and to share the page on social media. Meanwhile, the grieving widow said she will continue to fight to raise her children in the United States.
“I just want my babies to be have the opportunity to maybe have freedom, just to have what their daddy wanted,” Rosario said.
Recently, the children were told of their father’s passing. Rosario said her 7-year-old son tends to keep his emotions inside; her 10-year-old daughter, just the opposite.
“My older daughter, she was upset. She was mad. She screamed. She squeezed my leg as hard as she could and she said, ‘I hate Tijuana. I hate Tijuana because they killed my daddy,’” recalled Rosario.
Rosario said she is thankful, now, to be safe in San Diego.
“I know there are good people around here and they might be able to help,” she said.
If you want to help, follow this link to Supervisor Nathan Fletcher’s GoFundMe page.