The gangs of El Salvador have plagued the Central American country with gang warfare. These gangs are constantly seeking to recruit young men and women, forcibly if necessary. That was the fearful existence of 19-year-old Eduardo.
“Eduardo’s life was threatened directly by gang members. He’s had family members and friends killed by gang members in their neighborhood. If he stepped outside of his home, he was at risk of being murdered,” said Timothy Paulson, Arrive Ministries’ legal services staff working on Eduardo’s case.
After being separated from his father, Rene for 15 years, Eduardo and his mom are some of the few people who arrived in Minnesota in recent months through a new program to reunite Central American children with their parents living in the United States. The Central American Minors program, which launched in December of 2014, gives a newfound hope to many of these El Salvadorian children and young adults who are living in fear.
Eduardo’s cousin, Jennifer welcomed him and his mom Carolina at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport this spring, and both are ready to start a new life, free from violence and fear in Minnesota.
“In El Salvador it’s really bad, gang members kill each other, so for us it’s a blessing to have them here. Because of Eduardo’s age, gang members will try to take him to join the gang even though he doesn’t want to,” said Jennifer.
One and a half decades is a long time to be separated from your family, but they now feel relief reunited as a family of three. Rene last lived with his son when he was a young boy playing in the streets of El Salvador. These days his son, Eduardo has grown into a tall, trendy millennial, sporting the pompadour hair-style, wearing a google hoodie, with a phone basically glued to the palm of his hand.
“Oh, I’ve missed them so much. But it’s been worth the wait. I’m just so happy. I never thought they would come so quickly. Thanks for everything Timothy and everyone at Arrive Ministries,” said Rene.
“I was tearing up watching Eduardo walk in because I sat with his father, I heard his concern, his worry for his child and his wife; and to get to welcome them to the U.S. is amazing,” said Paulson.
The Central American Minors program was created in response to the large number of unaccompanied minors who took the dangerous journey through Mexico to come over the southern border of the United States. Many of these children were at risk of being kidnapped or forced into slavery by Mexican drug cartels. The federal government responded by creating this program where parents who live in the U.S. can apply for their children who live in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras for refugee or temporary status in the U.S, which significantly speeds up the years-long process, to just under one year.
“We’re actually kind of amazed at how quickly this CAM process has worked,” said Paulson. “To see this happen in such a short-time is amazing. It makes me feel honored to be in a position to help people do that.”
“The nice thing for Eduardo is as refugees, they are permanent residents, so they are on track to become citizens and to stay permanently in the U.S., and are not at risk of the dangers in El Salvador anymore,” said Paulson.
Jennifer shared the family’s gratitude on behalf, “Thank you for everything you do and I hope more families get this blessing too. I know it’s hard to get it, but when God is with you, you can have anything I guess, thank you,” said Jennifer.