Sara is a young mother with 4 young children between the ages of 6 and 12. Her oldest son was Manuel. When Manuel started 6th grade, gang members, took an interest in him. They began to tell him that he should join them, that he would have a future with them, that he could be powerful. Manuel wasn’t interested. Over time, the gang members became a more aggressive. They used to tell Manuel that he should join. Now they told him that he must join. Their tone changed, and Manuel dreaded what he knew was coming.
One day, Manuel was tipped off by a classmate that he was in danger. He barely escaped being attacked with knives by the gang members who had been recruiting him, by leaving school through the back door and going home a different way than usual. He ran all the way home, and told his Mom right away that he had almost been attacked with knives.
Sara decided that she had to do something, even if it put her own life in danger. She knew the gang members in their neighborhood. She paid attention, and she went and found one of the leaders of the gang, and told him to leave her son alone. The gang leader told Sara that they would leave Manuel alone, and let him go to school. But he didn’t mean it, because as soon as Manuel returned to school, the harassment started again. And Manuel, as a 12 year old kid, was afraid for his life every time he left his house.
So the family moved to another neighborhood, in hopes of escaping, and Manuel started at a new school. A few weeks after they moved, gang members found Manuel on his way home, and severely beat him.
So Sara sent Manuel to another neighborhood, to live with her sister- again, in hopes of protecting him. Just a few weeks after Manuel was living with his aunt, he walked to the store to buy a pair of shoes, and he did not come home.
Sara searched for him the day he disappeared and every day after that, asking everyone if they knew where he was. The police lent her a uniform, that covered her face, so that she would be disguised as she looked for him. But the police themselves did not look for Manuel.
A little less that 2 weeks after Manuel disappeared, Sara found Manuel’s body in a ditch on the side of the road. His body was in pieces. There are not words to express the acute and deep pain Sara felt, and continues to feel.
The next day, Sara’s husband went to the cemetery to arrange for Manuel’s funeral. But he did not come home, so Sara went to the cemetery to look for him. When she got to the cemetery, she knew her husband was gone.
A gang member was there, and he told her that she would watch her other son be killed next, and then her other two children, and then she would be killed.
After this, Sara reported all of these things to the police. Even though she didn’t think the police would do anything to help her AND she knew that reporting to the police was dangerous, she was willing to try anything to get help.
Immediately after she made the report she took her 3 young children and fled from to another city in her country. While she was in that city, she received phone calls from gang members, threatening to kill her and asking her where she was.
Sara couldn’t escape, though she had tried. She had lost her son and her husband, and knew there was nowhere in her country where she would be safe. So she made the decision to leave her home, to save her life, and her kids’ lives.
She spent two weeks traveling, by foot and by bus. She and her children crossed the Rio Grande. Exhausted, they walked and walked and found some US officers. Those officers interviewed Sara, gave her a GPS ankle monitor, and she made her way to Virginia, where she knew someone who was willing to sponsor her.
And then Sara and her children made her way to us. Sara and her children are refugees, and RILA has filed for asylum on their behalf, and we look forward to arguing their case in court.