NY JFON Helps a Family Claim Religious Asylum

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Pictured: Miguel and Maria participating in a new church in the U.S, where Miguel provides worship music leadership. Photo taken from behind and names changed to protect their identities.

Miguel and Maria had a comfortable life in Honduras with their son, Andre, who was just four when Miguel left Honduras to try to make it to the United States. As a small business owner and a Christian, Miguel ran into trouble with a local gang member who didn’t approve of Miguel’s evangelization efforts, as it challenged the preeminence of the gang. Miguel recalls, “A member of the gang wanted to stop me. He said nothing was greater than the gangs and their weapons. He spoke against God. I said I believe in God, not a gun. He got mad.” After Miguel’s peaceful defense of his faith, the gang threatened Miguel and his family. In fear for his and his family’s life, Miguel decided to make the precarious journey north to the United States.

     In 2016, Miguel embarked on a treacherous journey from Honduras through Guatemala to the Mexican border. From there, he climbed on top of a freight train, called La Bestia (“the beast”) or El tren de la muerte (“the death train”). This was the fastest way north, but even then, it takes three weeks and requires hopping off to find food and water in nearby towns. “I saw many things happen on that train. A kid was killed, an older couple fell from the train. There were fights in the cars,” Miguel said.

     Once Miguel crossed the river from Mexico and into the U.S., he was detained by U.S. Border Patrol in Texas. After a few weeks, he was transferred to another detention facility in Florida. Finally, he was released on bond and soon purchased a plane ticket to New York, where his extended family lives. Once Maria and Andre heard that Miguel had made it safely to New York, they decided to make the journey as well. After crossing the border into the U.S. and facing similar detention and release, Maria and Andre reunited with Miguel in New York.

     Finally reunited as a family, Miguel and Maria secured a private immigration attorney. However, the attorney kept requesting money from the family without any progress to show for it. Frustrated, a friend of Miguel’s referred him to New York Justice For Our Neighbors (NY JFON). Miguel attended the NY JFON Hicksville Clinic, where he met Senior Staff Attorney Samantha Blecher. Following their meeting, Samantha referred Miguel and his family to NY JFON’s Asylum Attorney, Alexis Duecker.

     With Alexis’ help, Miguel and his family were able to secure a court hearing for their asylum claim. With the combination of Alexis’ professional preparation and Miguel’s personal conviction, the judge granted Miguel and his family the right to stay in the United States. “I was so amazed and happy, especially for my son. He feels proud to be here. I feel so happy for him when they allowed me to stay in this country,” says Miguel. Even Andre, who is now in school, wanted to express his joy. “I do like my school. Because I learn, and I have fun. And I have a lot of friends.”

     Today, Andre has two more siblings, both U.S. citizens born after Miguel and Maria settled in the United States. Additionally, they found a church home where Miguel provides leadership through music and singing.

This story was written using extracts from Christie R. House’s article, “The Freedom to Live Out Faith in Christ.” The full and complete article can be read here.

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