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Refugee Stories: Jose’s Story

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 am 17 years old, and am from El Salvador. A year ago I was a student at the National University, studying Electrical Engineering. However, the gangs in my neighborhood began threatening me and my family. They wanted me to join their gang, but I resisted.

“Finally, they told me that if I did not join, they would kill me, or my family, or both. My parents put me on the journey to the United States, where I have two uncles. I spent two months traveling across Guatemala and Mexico, many times hiding from the police; other times hiding from Mexican gangs. I finally reached the US where I was detained for a month in the “Refrigerator” at a detention center in Texas.

“The temperature was a constant 60 degrees and I had only a blanket and my underwear. No shoes and socks; no shirt or pants. It was miserably cold. We only got one meal a day, usually a white-bread sandwich with a piece of baloney in between—dry.

“Finally, I was allowed to travel to Los Angeles where I am now staying with my uncles and going to high school—mainly to learn English. My court date has not been set yet. I fear being returned to El Salvador, as I’m sure I will be killed as soon as I arrive.”