Los Angeles

Salvadoran Youth Personifies Immigration Crisis

John Flores, from El Salvador, faces tough challenge seeking asylum through courts in US

Every day in Los Angeles, hundreds of cases are heard at immigration court.

In one day two weeks ago, there were 526 cases on the calendar.

One of those was for a young man who says he works as a waiter in New York City, had to save his money to come to LA for his immigration hearing - and says he's doing everything he can to show he can be a responsible citizen.

John Flores says he came to the US from El Salvador simply because he couldn't find decent work.

He says money is made by the hour in the US. In El Salvador, by the day.

He shared photos of his month-long journey that took him through deserts and rivers with his younger brother, riding the so-called "beast" train though Mexico.

A little more than a year ago, they made it - crossing illegally into Arizona.

"I want to achieve," he said in Spanish. "I want to move forward."

But a law professor at Loyola Law School says Flores' case will likely be tough to fight.

"The law has various categories and forms of relief and your situation needs to fit into one of those categories," said Kevin Lapp, a Loyola Law School professor.

While many of the unaccompanied minors who've crossed in recent months might be able to seek asylum based on persecution back home, Flores will have a harder argument.

"It's not enough to say conditions in my country are bad and I don't want to go back there," Lapp said. "Asylum is meant to aid and avoid human suffering."

Flores says he understands his background will be investigated and he's ready.

He says he was good student, studying electrical engineering at the Thomas Jefferson Institute back home.

He says he has no criminal record, just a need to survive and provide for the family he left behind.

"I left a piece of myself behind there," he said, adding that his faith got him this far.

Now he hopes the judge will let him stay.

His case goes back to court Thursday, for a possible change of venue back to New York, but it's an example of how difficult it can be to navigate immigration court.

He hopes his personal story will sway a judge to give him legal residency.

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