From a translated letter sent to FFI in late 2019; recently, we learned that Jonathan won his BIA appeal and was immediately granted asylum. He is currently in New York, and is eager to begin working to help people in detention.
Hey everyone, I hope this letter finds you well. I’m writing this to you so you’ll learn a little about my history.
My name is Jonathan. I’m a homosexual boy (gay) and originally from El Salvador.
Well, I want to start by saying that for as long as I can remember, I knew I was gay. Coming to terms with this created a very difficult time in my life, and it was very hard for me to accept it personally. I faced bullying and rejection while I was in school, but without a doubt I first experienced discrimination for being gay at home. Unfortunately my father abandoned me when I was 7, leaving me with my mother and younger brother.
At one point, an uncle of mine got aggressive and said he was going to kill me...
Every mom knows what kind of person their son is, and my mom started to have suspicions about my sexual preference. I was a little shyer, quieter, serious, and didn’t have the mannerisms normally associated with “manliness”. For these reasons, my mother started treating me differently during my adolescence. I started to hear things like “you look like a girl”, “stop being so gay”, “dress like a man”, “when are you getting a girlfriend?”, “only girls look as done up as you” - words that are still etched in my memory. At one point, an uncle of mine got aggressive and said he was going to kill me because he didn’t like that there was “a queer” in the family.
I kept fighting for my life but my self-esteem kept dropping and dropping. At one point I felt like my life had no meaning and I would constantly ask God, “Why have you made me Gay? Why? I just want to be a normal boy, and happy like everyone else.”
I couldn’t defend myself and they often beat me in the street...
When I started facing society I started to see that being gay was harder than I imagined. Each day I would face taunts in the street from all different kinds of people, even from criminals. The kind of slurs they used were: “queer”, “asshole”, “fucker”, “fucking gay”, “son of a bitch”, and “you’re cursed”. Ultimately, they are words I always remember. It all got worse when people started robbing me of my belongings on the street because they knew I was gay. I couldn’t defend myself and they often beat me in the street and in reality I had no one to go to.
In September of 2012 I experienced something that had a terrible impact on me: a gang of criminals abducted my younger brother, and made him disappear. My mom asked the police for help but they couldn’t do anything. Sadly, I never found the remains of my baby brother. I never saw him again. He left behind his clothes, shoes, and all of his things at home. I think this was at the root of my depression, which got even worse. I contemplated taking my own life. I felt tired of all my suffering. I again felt that my life had no meaning.
As time went by, the suicidal thoughts kept building up.
Time went by, and I felt myself more and more alone. Due to the situation at home, I spent all my time locked in my room and on many occasions I had nothing to eat. Being gay meant food was denied to me. I was tired of all the crying. As time went by, the suicidal thoughts kept building up. I then started receiving death threats from these criminals and the fear of dying was real.
I was subjected to sexual assault by a police officer, while another watched the humiliation I was subjected to.
On September 19th, 2018 I was attacked by members of this gang and I managed to escape. On September 21st, 2018 I showed up at the police station looking for help and to file a complaint because of the evident danger I was in. This would end up being in vain because that day I fell victim to the worst and most vile attack that can happen to a person: I was subjected to sexual assault by a police officer, while another watched the humiliation I was subjected to. But this wasn’t enough for them. They proceeded to threaten to kill me if I moved forward with the complaint against these gang members and if I mentioned anything of what had happened to me. I was threatened with the implication that the police were connected to the gang and were accomplices of many crimes. Unfortunately, in El Salvador you won’t hear about any of these hate crimes towards gay people being punished.
I started to feel my life was in danger because of all the discrimination. I started to see I was alone; I didn’t have my have my dad, I didn’t have my little brother, and I didn’t have the support of my mother.
I arrived in the U.S. on October 22nd 2018. I peacefully turned myself in to the border patrol with the goal of staying safe.
On September 23rd, 2018 I emigrated from El Salvador due to all of the persecution, bullying, and threats; I was tired of fighting to save my life; I was disappointed with everything happening to me. I went through Guatemala and Mexico and didn’t seek refuge or help there since these countries represented fearing trafficking of drugs and undocumented immigrants. I arrived in the U.S. on October 22nd 2018. I peacefully turned myself in to the border patrol with the goal of staying safe.
I’ve been relocated to a cold room where I had to sleep on a cold floor, using an aluminum sheet and my shoes as a pillow. I was there for four days without showering, without being able to use the restroom. I had a cookie and juice in the morning and at night. Then I was moved to two different federal locations and finally I arrived at Otero County Processing Center in the state of New Mexico.
There I was bullied day after day for being gay by the other detainees.
There I started the migratory process despite being limited by not being able to gather proof for my case and not having no help translating my documents from Spanish to English. I had to live in a dormitory with forty-nine heterosexual men, and there was no privacy when using the bathroom. There I was bullied day after day for being gay by the other detainees. I was victim of discrimination and humiliation with the slurs they used against me. Nevertheless I also faced ill treatment from the security officers.
Once the hearing was over, I was told blatantly that the best thing for me was to get deported.
My court dates neared. On November 28th 2018 I had my first court hearing. I have to admit that I didn’t feel that the lawyer properly represented me for the money I paid. Of course he also worked on my bail bond which ended up being a total fraud. The day of the bond hearing was December 17th 2018. Moments before going into court, the lawyer told me that there was one of the documents was incomplete. Something I blame him for because he showed disinterest in my case. In order to remedy his mistake, he told me that the judge is a family friend, and that they’ve known each other for a long time and there wouldn’t be any problems: he’d mail the completed document to the Judge. When we entered the courtroom, this was pretty obvious: they were immediately friendly to one another. All this resulted in my bond being denied, and once the hearing was over, I was told blatantly that the best thing for me was to get deported. I still remember his words: “I would charge more to represent you in asylum court, and truth be told I don’t think you can afford me." Sadly, seeing his attitude toward me I dare to say that my lawyer wasn’t comfortable with the fact that I was gay. I think that I was again a victim of homophobia and stealing by the lawyer.
On February 12th, 2019 I represented myself in my final court date. The Judge denied me help. She did mention that no human being deserves being treated like I was, but she still denied my asylum.
I then entered an appeal process because I fear for my life and don’t want to suffer any more sexual abuse or torture.
My mental health worsened more and more because I feel like I’m worthless, that gay people were worthless in this country.
My total time in detention processing was one year. I have NO criminal record, and I’ve never had a disciplinary problem. My experience inside the detention center hasn’t been easy, and here there are all types of people. There’s a lot of ignorance and I’ve suffered discrimination. I was mocked for being gay with phrases like: “Look at the gay”, “there’s the gaylord”. There were also people who refused to sit with me in the dining hall because they couldn’t stand being at the same table as a gay person. All of this generated a tense, unsafe and uncomfortable environment for me. My mental health worsened more and more because I feel like I’m worthless, that gay people were worthless in this country; why keep living if there would never be acceptance.
All of the attempts to ask for help so far have been in vain. I feel powerless, disappointed and stressed; I feel that all is lost for me. I fear for my physical and mental health because I feel that my life has no meaning.
I left El Salvador, not because I wanted to, but because the circumstances forced me to. I came to this country with the hope of getting support.
If God grants me the opportunity to remain in this country I want to set an example and be of help to others.
I feel tired of living, of suffering, of crying, tired of this world.
Well, I’ve tried it all. I sought help and I’ve never had a positive response. At times I feel that even God doesn’t hear me. I feel tired of living, of suffering, of crying, tired of this world. Seeing my other friends suffering inside the detention center and knowing that ICE does not listen to us.
This is only some small glimpse of my experience, and everything that I’ve gone through. I hope you don’t get tired of reading this. May God bless you and I hope to see you in another life.