Two siblings who claim death threats from gangs forced them to flee Honduras are asking a Los Angeles judge to make preliminary findings that will enable them to petition to seek permanent residency in the United States.
The girl, 17, and her 15-year-old brother were caught and detained by the U.S. Border Patrol after they tried to enter the U.S., according to court papers filed on their behalf in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday by attorney Gerado Conroy.
They now live in Torrance with an older brother attempting to be appointed their legal guardian.
In sworn statements, the siblings state that their parents are too old and sick to protect them from gangs. The girl said she did well in school in Honduras, but had to leave.
“There were distractions that made it difficult for me,” she says. “The distractions were scary. They occurred in the form of gang members that have a game they like to play. The game is raping young girls.”
The girl says she had many would-be assailants.
“I was lucky to escape,” she said. “So persistent (were) their efforts that I could not go to church or to school unless I had someone accompany me.”
She says there was no point in calling the police.
“Some people say that the police are being paid by the gang members to leave them alone,” the girl said. “Others say that the police are afraid of the gangs. Whatever the reason, … they do nothing to prevent the rapes and any other criminal activity.”
She said the rape attempts escalated to death threats when her younger brother refused to join the gangs.
“When that happened, I got even more scared,” she said, “My parents and I decided that I should leave Honduras as soon as possible.”
She says that she is again doing well in school while living with her other brother.
“I know there are gangs in the United States, but they do not have the authority to do the kinds of things they do in Honduras,” she said.
She says it is not safe for her to return to her native country.
“If I am forced to return to Honduras, I do not know how I would manage,” she said.
The girl’s younger brother says in his sworn statement the gangs’ threats against him got worse after he balked at joining them.
“I kept refusing and their threats intensified,” he said. “I became more and more afraid, because I know what they are capable of doing to those who do not agree with them.”
The siblings’ father states in yet another sworn declaration that he and his wife sent their children to the U.S. with their “blessings” in the hope they would have better lives.
“The decision broke my wife’s and my hearts, but the well-beings of our children were in danger,” the father said. “I am happy they were able to get there safely and are now with their older brother.”
The father said his daughter is “just beginning to look like a woman (and) is a prime target” of the gangs.
According to court papers filed on their behalf, the siblings want to be declared “special immigrant juveniles” by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
First, they must get a Superior Court judge to find that their reunification with one or both parents is not feasible and that it is not in their best interest to be returned to their native country.
Factual findings in their favor by the Superior Court would not result in them obtaining permanent residency in the U.S., but it would enable them to petition federal authorities for a “green card,” which would allow them to work in the U.S. and, after five years, apply for American citizenship, according to the court documents filed on their behalf.
The siblings have a court appearance before an immigration judge Monday. A hearing on their request for preliminary residency findings and on the guardianship is scheduled Nov. 5.
— City News Service