From a letter sent to FFI by Aroldo Rodriguez, currently detained at Yuba County Jail
I came to California to meet my parents and siblings when I was 10 years old. My father left me back in El Salvador with my older sister when I was 3 and my sister was 5. My mother went to meet him in the U.S. two years later. They came to California in search of a better life. Once they were financially stable they brought my sister over, and a year later, they brought me. At this point they had 2 more kids.
When I arrived in 2006 it was very difficult for me to get used to a whole new lifestyle. I felt like I was meeting my parents for the first time in my life. I had little to no memory of them. I had trouble viewing them as authority figures in my life.
I tried my best as a 10 year old to become accustomed to life in California. Unfortunately the neighborhood my family lived in was heavily influenced by gangs. I was having trouble at home with my father, constantly bumping heads, and also life at school was really hard due to me not knowing the language.
By the time I was 13 years old I found myself involved with gangs to escape troubles at home. I made some real dumb decisions during this time in my life. I got in trouble with the law and got myself in juvenile detention. The poor choices I made as a teenager are affecting me greatly to this day.
Up until the day I turned 18 I kept getting in trouble. Life became harder for me once I tried to detach myself from my gang affiliation. It is a label I can't seem to get rid of even though I am not that person anymore. I am now married and have a beautiful son.
In 2018 me and my wife were going through a family crisis and as a result I ended up incarcerated. Now I find myself in immigration detention away from my family, fighting for a chance to remain in the U.S. with my loved ones. My absence is affecting my family in many ways. First and foremost, my son is growing up without a father even though he has his grandfather on both sides, but it isn't the same. I would know. I grew up without my father when I needed him the most. Also, my wife was in a car accident in which she lost feeling in her right leg. It is hard for her to care for our son on her own. She is struggling financially and emotionally. I also have 3 younger siblings whom I miss very much. They are so used to having me around that if I am ever deported it would tear them apart, especially my youngest sister, who is really attached to me. My mother lives in constant fear if I am deported I will be killed, if not by the gangs in my country then that the government will see to it that I am harmed.
I was denied my request for Convention Against Torture (CAT) by the immigration courts. I truly believe I was not given a fair trial. It seems to me that Judge Parker walked into the courtroom with his mind made up to dey my request without giving me a chance to advocate for myself. I have appealed his verdict because I refuse to give up hope and to let the judge keep me away from my son and wife.
I thank God has given me the strength to continue fighting and also for providing two very capable lawyers to help me all the way. I pray that I am given the chance to stay in this country. I am determined to pay my debt to society for all the mistakes I made in my life in the U.S. I want to give back however I can. I would like to use my knowledge of gangs to help deter kids from joining them. I would love to pursue a career in counseling and teaching. If I am deported I am being deprived from all this.
I have lived most of my life in the U.S. My wife and son are here, [and] my siblings and parents. All I know is in this country. Unfortunately, El Salvador continues to be consumed by political instability and gang violence.
My name is Aroldo Rodriquez and I am asking the courts for a second chance.