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.

Art by Erikson Martinez, currently detained at Krome North Service Processing Center

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.