She approached me at the end of a service at church wanting to know if she could have a private meeting with me. We went downstairs and she asked me if I could help with her son’s asylum court case. This was new territory for me! I knew nothing about asylum cases. I asked her to come over to my house and give me the whole story. She came to the United States from El Salvador after her abusive husband left her with a child to feed and raise on her own. She had no means to provide for her son. Though it was one of the most difficult decisions of her life, she left Fransisco with her mother and went to the United States to make money and provide for her son. After a few years in the United States, she received Temporary Protected Status (TPS), due to the conditions in El Salvador, it was deemed unsafe for her to return and was given legal right to continue her life and work in the US. Over the years she had 2 additional children who were US citizens. However, due to the limitations of her TPS status, there was no way to apply for family members to enter the US. In El Salvador, her mother passed away and Fransisco was sent to live with a cousin, the only family member willing to take him in. However, Fransisco’s mother would receive reports from friends of the family and former neighbors that he was being mis-treated. He was staying alone by himself at the age of 14 in a very dangerous country, while his cousin would go away for month at a time to live with his girlfriend. Through conversations on the phone Fransisco would report that he wasn’t receiving any of the money she regularly sent for him, often going hungry and he was scared of MS-13 (a Salvadoran gang that rules towns and villages in El Salvador with threats and violence). They were regularly making threats to him, telling him that he had to pay MS-13 a monthly wage if he wanted to stay safe. Finally, MS-13 made good on their threats and threw a shrapnel bomb his way. Shards of metal sliced open his leg and he was terrified. At this point in the story, Fransisco’s mother looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, “What choice did I have? What can a mother do? I had to care for my two children here and my son was in danger in El Salvador. I sent for him illegally and he was caught at the border. That was 6 months ago. He was released into my custody until his court date. I have gone to many lawyers but they all tell me that it is a lost cause. However, I will continue to fight for my son, even if I have to do it myself. I know that God is my protector and with Him all things are possible. I pray and I pray and I know that God will give me strength.” By the time she came to me, we only had a few weeks before the court date, so there wasn’t much that could be done. We prayed together and awaited the date. The court date came and she reported good news, the hearing had been postponed for a year. Fransisco had another full year to go to school, strengthen his English skills, find a lawyer and pull together a case!
Fransisco now has two lawyers on his case, provided through KIND (Kids In Need of Defense). He is being mentored by a gentleman who lives in the intentional community. They meet weekly and work on his English, study for classes, and talk about life. His mentor also checks over his schedule and ensures that Fransisco is on track to graduate from high school. They also talk about post-diploma career plans, vocational schools and community college. Fransisco looks forward to his time with his mentor every week and for now, can focus on being a kid, studying and dreaming about the future. His English has improved leaps and bounds. One day, Fransisco looked at his mentor and said, “None of my friends are going to graduate from high school, but I am, thanks to you.”
Fransisco has stated that he is scared of being sent back to El Salvador. He has no friends and family that he can trust who will watch out for him. He doesn’t want to live life there by himself. At one point I asked him what would happen if he went back to El Salvador. Fransisco looked me in the eye and said, “They will kill me. I know they will.”
We don’t know what is going to happen to Fransisco’s court case. Even his lawyers say it is a slim shot. However, we will walk this journey with him and his mother, praying every step of the way for a miracle. Fransisco still has concerns that he will be sent back to El Salvador; however, he has hope. In the mean time, he is a high school student who studies hard and dreams of a future with his family that is free of fear in the United States.