Edwin, El Salvador

I was born in El Salvador, probably three hours from Sonsonate. I always think about my country and the cruel things I went through growing up there. This world is full of misery and wickedness, but those bad things have made me who I am today, and have made me strong and able to survive this world. If I hadn’t have moved here, I will be dead in my country by now. Growing up it was very hard for me because when I was probably ten or eleven years old my dad kicked me out of the house. I don’t know why he kicked me out. Maybe he did not love me, like a parent is supposed to show love to their kids when they are growing up. I never care about them loving me because throughout the years I have learn to love myself and others. The cruel things I remember that when he used to get drunk and hit me and my mom. One time I remember he beat me so bad that I have some scars on my back. When I was a kid, he also tried to drown me in the river that is near my town. I remember he pushed me in the shallow water, but he changed his mind and grabbed me by the hair and pulled me up. Since then I decided to run way. I felt that I was not meant to live at home. I went to live with some friends of mine.

I have five sisters and I believe one brother. We were seven. I am in the middle. Before I left, I went to school for a little bit, but then I didn’t go. School cost a lot money. My mom paid for it, for uniforms and books. My brothers and sisters didn’t really go. We couldn’t afford it. My mom worked picking coffee. My dad worked cutting wood that you would use for building a house

When my dad kicked me out, I went to the other side of town. I lived in a colonia outside the city, and moved to another colonia, within the city. The colonias are divided by a river and people who crossed the river are in another part of the colonia where they are not supposed to be in. When I said they not supposed to be in another colonia is because the people from different colonia might kill you or get you beat up by them. This how it happened to me because I move to a different part of town. My town, I betrayed. I was gone for a long time since my dad kicked me out of his place, so when I came back to my house, they didn’t accept me. They thought I betrayed them because I left the neighborhood. If you go to another town you betray them. Your community wants to jump you, because they think you betrayed them. It wasn’t like that. I had to do what I had to do to survive. I didn’t have a place to go. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t go back to the house. My dad was a drunk and he beat me. I don’t know if I want to tell you this, I’ve never told this to nobody, but he used to touch me. It’s the truth, you know. For me it was normal. I didn’t know what was normal. Now that I am older, I know that it was not normal. Those crazy things always playing on my head, the abuse and the neglect I went through in my country are my worst nightmares at night when I’m sleeping. It’s like a nightmare that haunting me every night that I can’t get away from it.

When my dad kicked me out, I lived on the street. While on the street, I was living with different kinds of people all the time. I knew I needed a protection from others who wanted to cause me harm or try to kill me. I decided to get jumped into a gang. Los Chicos Malos were the ones who controlled the colonia in the other side of my town. When I said I got jumped that means I got beat up by a lot of people. They hit you, they do whatever they want, for thirteen seconds. I don’t know why thirteen seconds. I believe is thirteen seconds is to prove then I can handle anything that comes my way or others who try to beat or kill me. I won’t go down to easily when it comes to die or fight. After I got jumped, I was in the group, in the Chicos Malos. I was the lookout for them for when the police would come to the neighborhood harassing us. The gang helped me a lot when I was growing. I remember from time to time my dad went to look for me with a machete and the gang chased him out the colonia. The group gave me food for being a lookout, and also protection from others and shelter sometimes. When you live on the street you don’t have anybody to support you, nobody is looking out for you. The gang looked out for me.

I’ve been on the streets forever. When I came here, I was still living on the streets. I was eleven or twelve when I left my country. Since then I have never look back. In my country there is a group called Sombra Negra. The Sombra Negra is paramilitary group that specialized in killing street groups like Los Chicos Malos. The Sombra Negra also specialized on intimidation, torture, decapitating, and shooting people in the back of head.

I had a friend who was killed by the Sombra Negra. In the colonia where I used to live there are a lot of empty houses. People were just too scared to live there because there was a lot of crime. The night that my friend was killed I was not at the empty house. I was gone to sleep in another house where some of my friends were going to look for someone who owed them money. I remember when I was coming in the room when I saw my friend with his throat and his hands tied to the bed and his fingers were also cut into pieces. There was a note on his mouth that said that I was next. I knew because when the police came to harass us they asked for my name and nickname and the police took a picture of everyone in the group. The night my friend got killed I was scared. Everyone said I was on the list because of the note that we found in my friend’s mouth. People like me were getting killed by strange hooded people coming to the colonia in the middle of the day. There was another friend of mine who also was shot to death in the day time. Someone said that person who killed him were the Sombra Negra. I remember when I went to see him, he had a few gun shots in the head and a few gun shots in the stomach right below his navel line. We found him behind an electric pole where he was trying to cover himself to not be shot. When I went to see him, blood was coming out of his mouth and nose. Someone said he was choking on his own blood because the bullets did not penetrate like how they supposed to.

When I heard that Sombra Negra was killing people, I used to sleep on the top of the house just in case the paramilitary people show up in the neighhood to kill another friend of mine. I put myself on alert just in case they showed up at nighttime. I remember I used to sleep with a machete on the side of me all the time, or a knife just in case someone try to harm me. A note was found on everyone who got killed. It was a scary time for me I was only eleven years old. I didn’t know what to do. Your family doesn’t want you. Your parents mistreat you.

My country has gotten worse throughout the years I have been here. People are moving because the rate of crime has increased. I also found that out when people like me get deported, the police gather a list of deportees from the United States and the police from my country put them in a database to see who is coming from the United States. This is part of the government of the US, to send us with a one way ticket to hell to get killed there because the Sombra Negra is still active in my country.

The first time I left I came with somebody else, but we only made it to Mexico. We got picked up by the police and deported. This was probably in 1997, I don’t know. We were deported just to the border. We had been riding the bus. Everything was still bad. I told my friends that I was leaving again and so I left and I made it to Mexico. I rode the train to Tijuana. You go from town to town, stopping in each time. I don’t know how long I was in Mexico. I was in Tijuana for a while because this family picked me up and asked me if I wanted to live with them and I said sure. I lived with them for a while, but they started fighting and arguing and I said, “I’m leaving. I’m going to the United States.” I went and asked somebody for a ride, a Semi truck man gave me a ride. But they always want something from me. The truck driver wanted to take advantage of me. Nothing is free. This guy asked, “Can you do this, can you do that?” I said no, so he left me in Tijuana.

In Tijuana I met this other man who asked me if I wanted to go to the United States. I told him sure. At this time I had to be really careful about who I’m going to go with because people at the border are trying to kidnap you or sell you for money. I heard so many stories about how a cartel can kill you and sell your organs to someone else. The guy I met told me that he used to work for a cartel and he said when he was in the cartel he used to see how immigrants from another country become victim to them by helping the immigrants to cross the border. If the immigrants had family in the United States they would kidnap you and ask their family to pay for you to be released. Or, they make you became a prostitute to work for them. I met people from everywhere. When you come here, you don’t know what to do. Other people show you what to do and what not to do. They tell you, for example, that when you cross the border, don’t run. Things like that. I would walk to cross the border and ICE didn’t even look at me.

When I first got to San Diego I was excited, happy to be in the United States. I felt like I was going to get lost. There were big buildings, lights. wider streets. I told myself, “What am I going to do here?” But at the same time, “Where am I going?” I was going in circles. You must figure out what to do.

I made it to San Isidro in San Diego. Back then it was easy. I used to get through every time. I walked back and forth between San Diego and Tijuana. Sometimes three times a day. When I was in San Diego my friend got picked up by the police and deported. I got picked up, too. He asked me, “How old are you?” I didn’t know, probably twelve. He said, “Oh, you can stay here.” And then he let me go. After I had been in San Diego for a while living in the street, I wanted to go to Los Angeles, so I rode the train to Los Angeles. I was there for a long time still on the streets, living in shelters and asking people for money to buy basic needs. I would get robbed by others because I was so young. A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go to Portland. I said, “Where’s that?” He said it was near Canada. I said, “Let’s go.”

When I got to Portland, I was living on the street again. We didn’t have a plan. We came here because he was having a lot of problems with people in Los Angeles. When we got here, he said that he didn’t like it here and he was going back. I said I was going to stay. I stayed for a while, living under the Lloyd Center bridge for a long time. I met this guy who asked if I needed money. He said I could sell drugs. I didn’t have any food, nothing. I was all dirty. He kept all the money, just gave me a little bit. After that, I cut him off and then I could keep all the money. I did that for a little bit but I got picked up by the police, by an undercover cop. I was selling heroin. Everybody was selling drugs. When I got picked up by the undercover cop I went to juvenile hall.

The judge said that I had to stay until I was twenty-one because I was a minor and I didn’t have any family, but it was a lie to scare me. I was there for a while, until the immigration picked me up. I told them I was Mexican because I didn’t want to get deported to my country because if I went back, I knew I would get killed. They deported me to Mexico, I was in Mexico for almost a week, then I made it back again to Portland. I flew! No just kidding, I took the bus.

I was still living on the street. I was going to school to learn English. The name of the school I was attending was called LISTOS. I was there for a little bit and I was waiting for the bus in Gresham and the ICE police recognized me. They picked me up again and took me to juvenile hall. This time I told them I was not Mexican; I was from El Salvador. They asked me questions, to describe El Salvador.

While in school I met a teacher, who hired a lawyer. I went before an immigration judge. I was able to talk to an asylum officer. We won the case for asylum. In 1998 the immigration appealed my case. I went from an asylum case to TPS — Temporary Protected Status. I’ve been TPS for a while, since 1998. A few years has passed since I got TPS. The teacher who hired the lawyer. She said to me, “Do you want to move with my family?” I told her yes, I was just tired of living in the street in Portland. I moved to Utah. When I was in Utah the family never understood where I was coming from because I never listened to anybody. I had to learn myself, made mistakes myself. I used to run away a lot, I think because I never liked it there. I was raised up in the street, so I always had to look for myself and take care of myself. I went to school in Utah. I graduated from high school. After I graduated from high school, I was no longer a minor and so I had to make my own choices. Mistake by mistake, I made it.

While I was still in Utah I got in trouble. What happened is that I had a fight with my girlfriend. We got mad. She got mad and I got mad. So then she closed the door on me. I said, “Open the door!” She didn’t open it. So, what I did is grab a rock and put a towel around it and broke the window. I did that because in my country my friend used to do that all the time when they broke into a house. She called the police. The police said that she said I hit her. She has two kids and when I broke the window, they said that the glass cut her son. I don’t know. I didn’t see pictures of that incident. Probably the police lied about it.

I was back in the hole again, like a small mouse running in circles in a cage. In 2016 when Trump was elected there was a new policy and they took away my TPS. If you have had an arrest for a minor infraction, President Trump took away my TPS. That makes me have nothing. Therefore, I don’t have a driver’s license. Every time I had to renew my TPS I renewed my driver’s license. In 2000 I filed to expunge my record, so my record is clean. But Immigration says, you do have a record. It doesn’t make sense. I didn’t know that. I thought my record was gone. I didn’t know it didn’t count for Immigration. Life has become really complicated now that I don’t have TPS because I always have to be really careful and watch my back every time I go out of my house just in case someone from ICE waiting for me outside. I pray everyday that God will keep me safe and away from the police.

But now I’m hiring a lawyer to reopen my case. I pay. It’s very expensive. I tried to do it and now she is going to try. I still have a social security number so I am still working, but I don’t know how that works. I was talking to my friend and he said that my number is still good, and they cannot take it away. I will just stay here until they come and pick me up. I don’t know what is going to happen. I am supposed to check in with Immigration but I’m not going to. There is no point. What are they going to do? Why would I want to check in? I will just wait until they come to get me and probably move out of the States one day.

I try not to think about it because I go crazy. It’s like waiting for something that’s going to happen, waiting and waiting. Waiting for death. That’s how it feels. I often feel suicidal. My mind plays tricks on me. At one point I had a gun on my head, but I didn’t shoot myself. If you think about it too much, you go crazy. Now I live my life as a suicidal, ready to blow my head up or something. I don’t know at this time. Whatever happens, happens, that’s what I tell myself. You don’t know what is going to happen to me. You could see me today, but tomorrow they could go to my house and pick me up. I don’t know. I’m just living day by day, waiting for something. Sometimes I wonder why ICE pays attention to people like me, just trying to do good in the community. I don’t think that I am a threat to the community. I work at a hospital; how can I be a threat? But life goes on and I’m still alive. I can’t give up right now.

I would like to stay here. I feel like I grew up here. This is my home. I’ve seen a lot of people get killed. It scared me sometimes. Why am I going to PCC? I want to be a Physician’s Assistant. I like medicine. One little thing can make them feel better. It is about the people.

I don’t think that people understand me because they haven’t been in my shoes. They have never seen what it is like to live on the streets. I used to live under the Lloyd Center bridge, I used to sleep there. I didn’t know where to go. Nobody knows what it is like living on the street, to ask somebody for money. You don’t have a job. You have to choose, but you don’t have a family to help you choose what is good and what is bad. I choose for myself. Nobody ever told me what to do, what time to be home. I had to make decisions for myself. This is how I survived. I don’t know why I kept living.

I think that Americans need to know that everybody who comes here comes for a reason. I never dreamed about coming here. I came here because someone was trying to kill me in my country and because my family mistreated me. Deportees are getting killed when they get to El Salvador. My country is worse now than it was before.