Results 1 to 3 of 3

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Fleeing Violence in Honduras, a Teenage Boy Seeks Asylum in Brooklyn

    Fleeing Violence in Honduras, a Teenage Boy Seeks Asylum in Brooklyn

    Alejandro Rodriguez in his neighborhood in Brooklyn.
    Damon Winter / The New York Times


    December 5, 2014

    Here is Alejandro Rodriguez, 15, on a Sunday afternoon in Sunset Park, walking under a tree with his father, wishing he were playing soccer with his friends. And here he is on a rainy afternoon at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn, spiky bangs pushed down toward his dark brown eyes, raising his hand in a class for English-language learners.

    “I eat pizza sometimes,” Alejandro said, filling in the last word.

    He speaks guardedly around grown-ups, and stares into his smartphone when he gets bored or uncomfortable. He likes math, soccer and the band Linkin Park.

    In one month this spring, gangs in his hometown in Honduras tortured and killed seven or eight children his age or younger, then threatened to kill him and his brother if they did not join the gang. The boys had no adults to protect them.
    Alejandro with his father, Luis Rodriguez.
    Damon Winter / The New York Times

    Now Alejandro, whose given name is Isaid, is in a deportation proceeding, one round face in the surge of unaccompanied minors who poured across the border from Central America this spring and summer.
    Immigration agents picked up 68,541 unaccompanied children at the southwest border in the 12 months ending Sept. 30, up 77 percent from the previous year. More than 5,000 were then transferred to family members or other sponsors in New York City and on Long Island.

    Alejandro and his younger brother Jeffrey, 13, were two of that number, picked up along the border in July, then placed on a plane by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. They were two boys who had grown into teenagers in one of the world’s most dangerous environments, going to meet a father who had not seen them since they were little. Alejandro worried before the meeting, he said, speaking Spanish through an interpreter. “I didn’t know if I would recognize him,” he said of his father, even though they had communicated regularly by Skype.

    For their father, Luis Rodriguez, 31, the arrival of his children at the border was both a danger and a gift — he had unlawfully come to the country around a decade ago and had avoided involvement with immigration officials. Now they had his name, address and phone number.
    Alejandro, center, and his friend Carlos Castillo, right, at a Brooklyn N train station after school.
    Damon Winter / The New York Times

    He, too, was anxious about the reunion. “My fear was that they weren’t going to have that love for their father,” he said, also speaking through an interpreter.

    When Mr. Rodriguez saw Alejandro and his brother at the airport, he cried. “I felt their affection immediately,” he said. “I felt in the hug that they needed me.” He took risks by talking to Customs. But he said, “It was worth it because this will be our first Christmas together since he was 5.”

    Alejandro and Jeffrey were born in San Pedro Sula in northwestern Honduras, the country’s second-largest city. Their mother was gone from their lives when they were quite young, and Mr. Rodriguez left for the United States when Alejandro was 5 or 6, planning to return after a few years. Even then, violence was a problem in San Pedro Sula, Mr. Rodriguez said.

    It exploded after a 2009 military coup, as drug cartels and gangs waged open warfare in the streets. From 2011 to 2013, the city had the highest murder rate in the world, according to a Mexican research group, the Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice (the group’s study did not include the Middle East). Of the children detained by United States immigration agents, more come from San Pedro Sula than from any municipality in the world, according to the Pew Research Center — 2,200 from January to May alone.

    Alejandro’s friends in his hometown, San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

    From Alejandro Rodriguez's Facebook page

    In Honduras, Alejandro, living with his grandmother and missing his father, was left to watch over his younger brother. “He would ask why I had left, when I would return,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “Sometimes on birthdays he would want me to be there. My only hope was that we would someday be together.”
    Guns were everywhere, and gangs pressed teenage boys into service; girls were raped or sold. “Men would stop us when we were on our way to school and go through our things,” Alejandro said. Twice, gang members forced both boys from the bus, and several times they threatened Alejandro with guns, vowing to kill him if he did not join their gang, he said.

    The boys asked their father to help them leave Honduras, but Mr. Rodriguez remembered his own trip north. He was beaten and robbed in Guatemala and Mexico, he said, at one point riding on the top of an infamous freight train known as the Beast. Mr. Rodriguez is a compact, genial man who smiles easily, but when he described his journey north, he stopped in tears.

    “You could be assaulted, robbed or killed and left in the wild as if nothing happened,” he said. “These are not things you want for your kids.” Even as their lives in Honduras became more and more precarious, he told them not to come north.

    A police official at a site there where a gang massacred 12 people in 2013.
    Ian Willms for The New York Times

    Then on Mother’s Day in 2011, armed men arrived on motorcycles at Alejandro’s grandmother’s house.
    “Suddenly they stopped and opened fire without saying anything,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “Alejandro and his brother ducked under a car in order to escape the bullets, but their uncle was killed.” The gunmen told Alejandro and Jeffrey that if they went to the police, “they would have to face the consequences,” Mr. Rodriguez said.

    As his father spoke, Alejandro seemed to withdraw from the conversation, revealing no emotion. He is hard to read, often omitting or glossing over what are clearly horrific experiences.
    Rebecca Press, a lawyer at Central American Legal Assistance who is representing Jeffrey (who declined to speak for this article) and Alejandro, said the boys’ experience was typical among her clients. “The young people we come in contact with have been exposed to high levels of violence and been threatened themselves,” she said. “There’s a level of trauma that nobody seems to be dealing with.”

    Alejandro outside his school.
    Damon Winter / The New York Times

    Even in a town as violent as San Pedro Sula, the killing of children this spring was shocking. The children had been kidnapped, tortured and executed, probably for not cooperating with gangs. After that, the gangs stepped up their threats against Alejandro and his brother, Ms. Press said.

    In early June, the boys saw a news program about American immigration officials’ allowing unaccompanied minors into the country. The report was false, but the boys had no way of knowing that.

    Two weeks later they left home, carrying a change of clothes, water and some food. Because of their father’s opposition, they did not tell anyone they were leaving. Alejandro wore a knife on a chain under his shirt. They had 6,000 lempiras (about $283), which Alejandro divided among hiding places on his body.
    On a series of buses, they crossed borders into Guatemala and then Mexico, meeting other travelers on the same route. Alejandro stayed awake, keeping watch over his brother. For days they talked as little as possible, so that their accents would not give them away as foreigners.

    Alejandro practicing parkour moves during his subway trip home on Wednesday afternoon.
    Damon Winter / The New York Times

    Transfer points were the most dangerous. Three times they saw fellow passengers robbed or beaten by gangs, but no one bothered them. After the third robbery, near the United States border, they found a pay phone and called their father. “We told him that we were already in Mexico and could not turn back,” Alejandro said.

    Mr. Rodriguez had been frantic since learning the boys had left home five days earlier. “I was happy to hear from them but was also angry at the same time because of what they had done,” he said.

    By then they were part of a group of about six, the others all adults. The group crossed the Rio Grande into Texas by makeshift raft, just branches tied together with shoelaces. Their plan was to seek border agents on the other side, rather than risk wandering on their own in the June heat. “We thought we might get lost and never be seen again,” Alejandro said.

    They found agents soon enough, officers who had detained a group of migrants ahead of Alejandro’s group. At an intake area, the agents gave them food and a change of clothes, and questioned them: Where were they from? How old were they? Why did they leave?

    “I thought I was going to be sent back, because there was not a lot of space and a lot of people,” Alejandro said. “If you have a bad attitude, you’re sent back. We were very quiet.” Then the agents asked the boys for their father’s contact information.

    Alejandro was vague about how long they were held in Texas. Maybe it was three days, maybe longer. Finally they were put on a 2 a.m. flight to La Guardia Airport.

    In New York, there were adjustments to make. The streets and language were alien. Their father had started a new life, with a wife and a son; his apartment, a studio, was barely big enough for the three of them, let alone the addition of two adolescent boys. Mr. Rodriguez worked in an auto body shop, earning $800 a week — enough to support them, he said, since he had previously been sending money for the boys to Honduras. His wife, from El Salvador, stayed at home.

    For many families, reunification comes with tension and recriminations. But if there are stresses in Alejandro’s home, neither he nor his father let on.

    The boys were directed to appear on Sept. 11 in Federal Immigration Court, part of an accelerated docket for minors that was created to discourage children from crossing the border. At the courthouse they were met by representatives of the city’s Departments of Education and of Health and Mental Hygiene, who helped them enroll in school and in a free health insurance program. The Department of Homeland Security provided a list of free lawyers, including Ms. Press’s group.

    Ms. Press filed petitions for asylum, a process separate from Immigration Court, on Nov. 13. If the petitions are denied, the case will proceed in court.

    On a rainy morning before Thanksgiving, the halls of Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School sang with polyglot chatter. Students there come from more than 50 countries, and 39 percent are classified as English-language learners, taking most of their classes in Spanish, Chinese or another language. Police officers monitor the halls, but there are no metal detectors for students to pass through. The school has a graduation rate slightly below the city average, but SAT scores are slightly higher. For Alejandro, who chose Roosevelt from a list of eight because he preferred a big school, this is his portal to his new life.
    In algebra class, the teacher, Adnan Gomez, gave a word problem in English (“Julie lives four blocks east of F.D.R. and David lives four blocks west of F.D.R. ...”) while addressing the students mostly in Spanish.
    Moments later, Alejandro raised his hand to solve a simple problem. When Mr. Gomez asked him to explain his reasoning, he did so in Spanish.

    At Roosevelt, Alejandro was placed in relatively low-level classes, primarily because of his deficiency in English, said Steven DeMarco, the school’s principal. Each day he has three classes in English as a second language. Alejandro said his grade point average was around 85. Mr. DeMarco said that teachers and guidance counselors watched students for signs of trauma, especially among recent arrivals from Central America — “changes in their personality or something they write” — but that they had not seen any signs so far. The school does not ask students their immigration status.

    The city’s Education Department does not keep track of how many recent undocumented immigrants have been added to the school system, or whether they have exhibited any effects from past traumas, said Milady Baez, senior executive director of its Department of English Language Learners and Student Support.

    On Thursday, guidance counselors citywide began a training program with the Center for Child Trauma and Resilience at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in response to the surge of unaccompanied minors. The training runs through June.

    At school Alejandro plays on a soccer team with other recent immigrants. He made friends quickly, he said.

    “We talk about how we arrived, how we’re feeling, how was the trip,” he said. “We all get sentimental.”
    But he still gets uncomfortable around English speakers. “When I get lost in conversation, I go on my cellphone so I don’t feel awkward,” he said. People on the street, he added, “would look at me and I didn’t know if they were saying something bad about me.” In a strange city, he found it hard to ask for directions, even from adults, because he did not know whether he could trust them.

    After school one day, Alejandro and some Spanish-speaking friends were waiting for the subway, listening to music on a portable stereo, when another group of teenagers started yelling at them. “They said they didn’t want to listen to music in Spanish,” Alejandro said. The words escalated into blows; one boy was smashed into a metal garbage bin, bloodying his mouth.

    Typical teenage stuff — but for Alejandro, it can be life-altering. Any serious trouble with the police or at school might endanger his immigration case. “You have divisions in the cafeteria, and fights between Chinese, Latin, Arab and black kids,” Alejandro said. “They make fun of the way we speak, and the music.”
    Mr. Rodriguez said he had told Alejandro to keep his distance and to ask for help from teachers, security guards or police officers. “But he says, ‘If I’m attacked, I will defend myself,' ” Mr. Rodriguez said.

    When father and son watched President Obama’s prime-time speech last month announcing an executive order to grant temporary legal status for up to five million immigrants, their reaction was mixed.

    Mr. Rodriguez can now live and work for three years without fear of deportation because his youngest child is an American citizen. But for Alejandro, the president’s words changed nothing.

    Still, he said his life had improved since he came north. He feels secure on the streets in a way that was impossible in Honduras. He has friends who are helping him learn English.

    His lawyer, Ms. Press, said he was a good candidate for asylum, with a decision likely in early 2015. Though he does not neatly fit into the law’s five eligibility groups — foreign nationals with a well-founded fear of persecution because of religion, race, nationality, political views or membership in a social group — asylum officers have interpreted the criteria broadly for minors, approving a much higher percentage of children than of adults. Because Alejandro witnessed his uncle’s killing and because he lacked “effective familial protection,” he could be considered part of an at-risk social group, Ms. Press said.

    If that fails, she said, she will seek special immigrant juvenile status, for children who are abused, abandoned or neglected by one or both parents — in Alejandro’s case, by his mother. Even with the accelerated docket, a final hearing on that application would probably be two years away, she said.
    In the meantime, he has soccer, school and a budding romance — interests that were perilous in Honduras, not so scary here. He has the luxury of thinking about the future.

    He said he would like to be a police officer, to be “protecting people and cruising around.” That, too, was different from Honduras, where the police could be as dangerous as the gangs.

    “Here you can serve calmly without fear of being killed,” he said. It seemed like a dream to him. “But you need 60 college credits,” he added, his spirit cooling at the thought.

    He grinned a little bit. In time, that hurdle, too, might seem more manageable.

  2. #2
    MW is offline
    Senior Member MW's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    North Carolina
    In one month this spring, gangs in his hometown in Honduras tortured and killed seven or eight children his age or younger, then threatened to kill him and his brother if they did not join the gang. The boys had no adults to protect them.
    Hmm, does the media verify this information or do they just take the illegals word for it? I'm sick of these boo-hoo stories, especially since we have no way of knowing what's true and what isn't. All journalist/editors should be required to verify these stories before they publish them as fact. I'm not saying things aren't rough in some of these countries, however, I'm not naive enough to believe all these sob stories are 100% factual. Moreover, I also believe many of these kids are coached prior to being interviewed by a member of the media.

    "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" ** Edmund Burke**

    Support our FIGHT AGAINST illegal immigration & Amnesty by joining our E-mail Alerts at

  3. #3
    Senior Member vistalad's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Quote Originally Posted by MW View Post
    Hmm, does the media verify this information or do they just take the illegals word for it?
    Every time I hear one of these stories, I think about America's foster children. There are approximately 59,000 of them in California alone. I've never heard a 'Bamacrat even mention them.

    We should of course help other people, when we can. The way to do that is with foreign aid.
    Americans first in this magnificent country

    American jobs for American workers

    Fair trade, not free trade

Similar Threads

  1. 1000 Children Fleeing Violent Honduras Heading to Violent Chicago
    By AirborneSapper7 in forum General Discussion
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 08-01-2014, 03:05 AM
    By Newmexican in forum Other Topics News and Issues
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 02-22-2014, 01:57 AM
  3. More Mexicans fleeing the drug war seek U.S. asylum
    By JohnDoe2 in forum illegal immigration News Stories & Reports
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 07-14-2011, 04:03 PM
  4. More fleeing cartels in Mexico, seeking asylum in U.S.
    By FedUpinFarmersBranch in forum illegal immigration News Stories & Reports
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 01-24-2010, 05:27 PM

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts