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Javi’s Story in the Trump Era

America is a last great hope here on earth for immigrants, with our freedoms and faith.

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The controversies over immigration are coming to a showdown. In his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump cited the dangers of Salvadorian gangsters in Long Island. He has dared the Democrats to shut down the government over immigration issues. The immigrant’s life is an essential commentary on our times.

“Javi’s Story” tells in graphic detail how one Salvadorian fled the gangs to a safe haven in Brooklyn. He braved death, more gangs, almost dying in the desert, and capture by the Border Patrol. The series was a finalist for the award for in-depth reporting given by the national association of religion reporters. This seems an important moment to update the story for those who missed it and for those who want to know what is happening to Javi now.



A casual pedestrian walking through any given neighborhood of El Salvador will stumble across bodies discarded in the streets. Rampant gang activity has yielded El Salvador up toone of the world’s highest death rates per capita, earning it the nickname The Murder Capital of the World. By the end of January of 2018, the country had already seen more than 220 homicides, with 50 of those deaths having clear links to gang activity.

The threat of violence is particularly virulent for the nation’s youth. Teenagers and young adults are targeted for gang enlistment. The gangs promise prestige, security, and a kind of family. On the other hand, they threaten murderous wrath to those who refuse to join. Even if a young person escapes the trap of gang membership, their lives are dictated by violence. According to El Salvador’s Ministry of Education, more than half of Salvadorian youth drop out of school between middle and high school because it’s too dangerous to travel across gang boundaries to attend school. Others, particularly in rural areas, have to leave their educations to work and help their families financially.

Sixteen-year-old Javi Reyes knew that his only hope for a safer life was to flee this bubble of violence and seek refuge and opportunity in the United States. His mother had a brother in New York City. If Javi could just reach him, he would have a secure home.

In his diary, Javi recorded the heartache of leaving his mother and sister, the fear of traveling under the protection of the mercenary travel guides known as “coyotes,” and the wretched conditions and horrifying deaths that he witnessed crossing the Rio Grande into the unforgiving Texan desert—all of this ventured for the hope of new life in New York City.

Javi’s story is almost unbelievable for many American readers, but it is not an uncommon one. The determination and courage that he embodies is shared among the immigrant communities that A Journey has had the privilege of reporting on.

But the struggles continue even after these travelers reach the United States. Not least is the struggle for security and acceptance in their new home.

At the beginning of this year, the United States ended a humanitarian program known as the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) that had allowed residency and the right to work legally in the States to immigrants whose home countries had become unsafe because of natural disaster or war. Over the years, many countries have been designated for TPS. Under its auspices, over 200,000 Salvadorans came to the United States fleeing civil war, an earthquake that devastated the country’s infrastructure in 2001, and the worst gang violence in the world. For two decades, these Salvadorians have called the United States home.

Some of those violent gang members snuck into America to prey upon these refugees, much like sharks following blood. President Trump’s State of the Union Address that highlighted the federal agents who have snapped up hundreds of MS 13 gangsters in Long Island was a welcome relief to Salvadorian residents. However, the United States government has now ordered all the Salvadorians who have protected status to return their home country by September 2019, unless Congress comes up with a solution allowing them to stay.

It seems premature to send the peaceful Salvadorians back to El Salvador where the gangs are still spreading their murderous folly. Some gang leaders are already boasting that the returnees will be easy pickings. This forced return is like throwing innocent people to the sharks. Who has won in this situation? The United States or the gangs?

We are re-running the serial to show our support for Salvadoran immigrants and the many others who have found a safe haven in our country after fleeing gangs, wars, and natural disasters. We hope that Javi’s story demonstrates the tremendous loyalty and assets that the Salvadorians have given to the United States. America is a last great hope here on earth for many of them, with our freedoms and faith.

We will end our series by answering the question, What is happening to Javi now?

Let us know if you have any immigrant stories that you would like to share.

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