Members of the faith community gathered outside the Federal Building in San Francisco on Thursday night to ask President Barack Obama to show compassion for families crossing the border to escape violence in their home country.
Alicia Navarro, her children, sisters and nieces and nephews stood before the crowd in tears. Through a translator, Alicia said they left everything behind in El Salvador after gangs killed her husband and threatened the family.
“My family is going through a horrible experience,” Navarro said in Spanish. “My partner of life was killed by the gangs.”
After days of detention in Texas, immigration officials released the group to Alicia's brother in the East Bay. They hope to seek asylum.
But immigration attorneys say it may be a long wait for a hearing. The Obama administration is fast-tracking cases involving people currently in detention.
Nonprofits that are providing free legal representation are overwhelmed.
“We’re representing 25 unaccompanied minor children,” said Niloufar Khonsari, who works for Pangea Legal Services. “We have seven interviews in the next few weeks at the asylum office for those children who have been processed through the court.”
Immigration advocates want the fast track to slow down. They say families who face danger at home deserve due process.
I hope they never go back to El Salvador,” Alicia’s brother Willie Navarro said, “because if they do, [the gangs] will be waiting for them.”