The plight of refugees and migrants from South America grows more drastic and their fate more uncertain. Refugee Stories are testimonies from children, adults, and families, gathered by the Salvadorean Lutheran Church, our companion synod in El Salvador, and CARECEN, an organization working to change the immigration system, win legal status for immigrants, and foster community activism. These stories are a tool and a witness for Refugee and Migrant Sunday and beyond; please share them with your congregations and ministries.
“I cannot return to El Salvador or the MS-13 gang will kidnap my daughter and kill me.
“I come from a humble background and worked hard to open my own small store to support my family. MS-13 started taking over my neighborhood, and everyone lived in fear of the gang members. The gang members would come into my store and take things without paying. They would also ask for money almost daily and raise the amount they demanded constantly. They were demanding more than what I could give, so I was forced to close my store.
“The MS-13 gang was very angry that I closed the store, and demanded $7,000 or they would kidnap my 8-year-old daughter. They said she was very pretty and they could do a lot of things with her. They also said that if I were to go to the police, they would kill me and my other children.
“I would not have gone to the police anyway because they are connected with the gangs, and often tell the gang members when victims report crimes. The gangs have killed many people who have tried to cooperate with the police. I know I can’t go anywhere else in El Salvador because MS-13 is everywhere, and others who have tried to flee to other parts of the country following similar threats have been found and killed.
“After the gangs threatened to kidnap my daughter, I could not send her to school anymore. We fled to the United States and asked for protection at the border. We were detained in freezing cold rooms and given very little food to eat. The gangs have now started targeting my mother, and I am afraid that she will be hurt or killed because I left.”