Maria never wanted to leave El Salvador.
The mother, now seeking asylum in the U.S. along with her 5-week-old baby, says it was fear for her life that drove her from her home in Central America.
While on her way to school in El Salvador last year, she was assaulted by gang members. Her assailants threatened to kill her if they ever caught her on that route again, simply because she was from a rival gang's neighborhood.
The ordeal frightened her so much, she stopped going to school.
Eventually, desperate for a safer life, she fled. But the human smuggler she relied on tried to assault her as well, then threatened to harm her and her family living in California.
For Maria, staying in El Salvador almost certainly meant death.
"I never had the desire to come to this country. Never. If that hadn't happened to me I would have been more at ease, but at least I wouldn't have had to go through all this."
El Salvador, and the Central American countries of Honduras and Guatemala, are among the most dangerous non-war zone countries in the world. Each year El Salvador and Honduras alternate for the top spot of murder capital of the world, along with Venezuela, Brazil, and Mexico.
Maria is now in the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and risks deportation back to the dangerous home she fled.
Maria's immigration attorney, Linda Rivas, said her client was detained until the start of her third trimester, when she was released to a shelter under supervision.
"She was not let out until six months pregnant at the urging of medical professionals, given that she had a high-risk pregnancy at that time," Rivas said.
The woman gave birth to a baby boy, who required postnatal care.
"We're asking for ICE to give more time in order for her to continue to explore her immigration relief options, as well as monitor her health for just some time more," Rivas said.
Since giving birth, the woman's fear at the prospect of returning to El Salvador has only grown.
"One of the things I want the most is to be able to stay here, not for me but for my baby," she said.
Our affiliate KFOX14 contributed to this report.