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 fled El Salvador because the gangs threatened to kill me and my son. I was divorced and my ex-wife lived separately with my younger child, and I raised my son as a single father.
“In early 2015, my son began to get harassed by the 18th St. Gang. My son tried to ignore them, but the gang members got angry. They told my son that if he didn’t join the gang, they would kill him and me. I was forced to take my son out of school because the threats were getting so bad and various gang members had started beating him up at school and on his way home.
“Unfortunately, the gangs had followed my son home and knew who I was and where we lived. I used to work as a handyman, and had a truck I would drive around with my tools and equipment. After my son stopped going to school, the gang members came to our home. They said that they knew I earned decent money, and that I had to pay them every month or they would kill me and my son for refusing to join them.
“They held guns to my head until I agreed to pay them $200, which was almost everything I earned. I had no choice but to give them the money. After that, the gang members would show up at our house every week or every other week asking for money and threatening to kill us.
“They did this for about 6 months. One day, the gang members asked me for $5,000 in the morning and said that they would be back at night. They said if I couldn’t pay they were going to kill me and my son. That was more than what I could earn in a year, so I felt that I had no choice but to report the threats to the police.
“However, the police said they couldn’t do anything to help me, so I didn’t go back home that night. The gang returned that night and saw that I was not there. They destroyed my work truck and shot at my home, leaving the walls full of bullet holes.
“I left the next day with my son, and we came to the US border asking for protection. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to my other child because I didn’t want the gangs to hurt her or my ex-wife. Thankfully, we have a family friend here who has let us stay in his home, but I can’t afford a lawyer to represent me in court. I am terrified that I won’t be able to win our case on my own, and that my son and I will be killed if we are deported.”