During this challenging year, the Florence Project secured asylum for over 70 unaccompanied children in Arizona, children who fled from violence or persecution in their home countries and sought refuge in the U.S.
This means that, thanks to you, over 70 courageous clients, like Carlos, will be safe from harm this holiday season.
Carlos grew up in El Salvador, where his father was a gardener and his mother sold pupusas at a food stand. When he was in middle school, his neighborhood began to change, with an increasing presence of gangs.
More and more of Carlos’ friends were recruited by the gangs, and some eventually joined. Before too long, Carlos was targeted as well. He was at a local soccer field with two friends when four members approached them and singled Carlos out. When he said that he wouldn’t join the gang, they told him that his cousin was a member, and he had to join too. Unfortunately, this was just the beginning of Carlos being targeted for gang recruitment.
Carlos repeatedly said he was not going to join the gang, but gang members continued to approach him on his way to and from school, threatening to beat him up – or worse – if he refused. Carlos and his parents were afraid to go to the police, since they feared that police would tell the gang members if they reported it, so they kept quiet.
In light of the threats, Carlos’ father began accompanying Carlos to and from school. The gang members approached them anyway and told Carlos that he had to join them like his cousin did or they would hurt him. When Carlos’ father intervened and said that Carlos didn’t want to join, the gang members said that they were going to harm the entire family.
From that point on, Carlos was living in constant fear of being attacked or murdered by gang members, something that he had seen happen all too often to others in his community. It became clear that he was no longer safe and could no longer go to school.
His grandmother has lived in the U.S. for many years, and his family talked to her about Carlos’ safety. Carlos finally felt like he had no choice and traveled alone through Guatemala and Mexico, and finally reached the U.S. border.
Thankfully, Florence Project attorneys represented Carlos in his asylum case. Now, after nearly a year of legal preparation including many sleepless nights for him, Carlos was granted asylum.
This year, Carlos will be spending the holidays with his grandmother, free from the palpable fear and serious threats that followed him everywhere he went in his hometown. He is also in a Phoenix public school, and enjoys learning English.
Thanks to you, 70 other children like Carlos won their asylum cases in 2017.