A Terrifying Experience Does Not Guarantee Immigrants the Ability to Stay in the U.S.
Alexia Salvatierra, a pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, told me the story of an evangelical Christian woman who owned a small business in El Salvador and had distant relatives in the States.
Gang members, who often extort small businesses in the country, came to her and said, “We want $500 from your rich relatives.” She couldn’t get money from the States, but she scraped together everything she owned and gave them $500. They immediately responded with a demand for $1,000 and the threat that if she called the police, they would ‘get her.’ She left the house, went a distance away, and called the police. Then the gang members and the police showed up at her house and raped her multiple times.
Her eight-year-old was in the next room, and they told [the woman], “Your daughter is really pretty. She’s perfect for selling.” So they ran. The mother and her eight-year-old fled El Salvador and entered the U.S.
Salvatierra laments that this mother and daughter are still not safe. Today they are in danger of being deported back to the very country where they were terrorized. Unfortunately, their experience does not guarantee they will be granted permission to stay in the United States for safety, and it is too common a story to illicit any extraordinary response from the immigration officials deciding their fate.
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