A Gay Salvadorian Refugee Gets a New Life in Dallas With Help from a Human Rights Group

It's not easy being gay in El Salvador, which, in addition to being the second most violent place on earth, is not particularly hospitable to LGBT citizens. A 2010 report presented to the United Nations by several human rights groups described a number of grisly murders. In one case, the bodies of two teenagers were found in a well, their faces beaten to pulp with rocks. In another, a transgender sex worker was kidnapped and tortured for several days before being killed.

It's that type of violence that forced Mikael to flee his home country and wind up in the Dallas area, where he spent more than a year in legal limbo. Now, with the help of the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, he's free to live and work in the country indefinitely.

Bill Holston, HRI's executive director, wouldn't go into specifics about Mikael, which is the pseudonym the organization used in today's post declaring victory in his case. Suffice it to say that "he was targeted by police ... and suffered badly at the hands of the police," Holston says.

HRI's website adds that "the government abducted and assaulted him physically, sexually, and verbally."

Mikael's application for asylum was referred to immigration court, where he provided testimony and presented evidence to bolster his claims. He wasn't technically granted asylum. For that, he would have had to file for the status within a year of his arrival in the U.S., a provision the immigration reform bill currently being debated by Congress would do away with. Instead, Mikael was granted "withholding of removal," which Holston still counts as a victory.

"What that means for him is, he doesn't have to go back," he says. "He's safe here, he can work, but he's not in line for a green card or citizenship."

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson