Anglican bishop’s son denied asylum, deported back to El Salvador

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers detain a suspect as they conduct a targeted enforcement operation in Los Angeles, California, U.S. on February 7, 2017. |

The son of an Anglican bishop in El Salvador who fled his native country for the U.S. following death threats from a gang was recently deported, according to his father.

Josue Alvarado Guerra, the 34-year-old son of Bishop David Alvarado of the Diocese of El Salvador, was deported back home after being detained in Ohio by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement last November. He had been in the U.S. since October 2016 and worked as an undocumented day laborer. 

Bishop Alvarado sent a letter to Ohio Bishop Mark Hollingsworth Jr. confirming that his son was back home, according to Episcopal News Service.

“We thank the God of life for allowing us to have Josue back in our house and share with him the difficult experiences he lived in detention,” wrote Alvarado, according to ENS.

“Josue definitely can’t be safe anywhere in El Salvador, we fear for his life. … We want to continue with the plans to get him out of the country as soon as possible.”

It is not clear whether Alvarado Guerra applied for asylum soon after he entered the U.S. or if he waited until after his arrest to plea for asylum. 

The two ways a person can obtain asylum in the U.S., according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, are known as the affirmative process and the defensive process.

For the affirmative process, one must be in the U.S. and must fill out the form for asylum regardless of immigration status, having, under most circumstances, one year from last entry to file it.

The defense process is used when a person faces deportation and comes either after the affirmative process form is rejected or the person is detained for lacking proper documents.

Alvarado also said that his family was working on getting asylum for Alvarado Guerra in Canada, with the bishop believing that sending him to another Central American country involves the same “situation of insecurity.”

“We know that there is a large list of friends who gave spiritual and pastoral support to our son,” he added. “We are fully grateful for all they did and we beg you to continue supporting us to put [Josue] in a safe place.”

Alvarado Guerra was threatened by a San Salvadorian gang for refusing to work with them and fled the country, eventually making his way to the U.S. where he illegally entered the country.  

He worked as day laborer, according to ENS, until Nov. 27, 2019, when he was detained by ICE while in Ohio and had his request for asylum denied.

The Episcopal Church actively supported Alvarado Guerra while he was in custody, with bishops writing in support of the detainee. The Rev. Aaron Gerlach of Old Trinity Episcopal Church in Tiffin visited him and offered pastoral support.

“My sense is he’s been scared from day one about being deported back to El Salvador,” said the Rev. Margaret D’Anieri, the canon for mission for the Diocese of Ohio, in an interview with ENS last month.

The Trump administration has overseen an increased effort to deport people who have illegally entered the country and curb the rate of resettlement of refugees.

Last September, the administration released a fact sheet announcing their intention to lower the refugee resettlement cap to 18,000 for fiscal year 2020 (Oct. 1, 2019 – Sept. 30, 2020), the lowest it has been since the program was created in 1980.

“This proposed ceiling takes into account the ongoing security and humanitarian crisis on our border and the massive asylum backlog, which now includes nearly 1 million individuals,” stated the fact sheet.

“The overwhelming backlog is completely unsustainable and needs to be addressed before we accept large numbers of refugees.”

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