Honduran Youth Pastor Wins Asylum in the United States

Douglas Oviedo in San Diego on Friday. Jenna Schoenefeld / for NBC News

Honduran youth pastor Douglas Oviedo won his asylum hearing last week. After fleeing violent gangs in Central America, trekking north to the US, and then being returned to Tijuana for seven months, he has won the right to stay in the country. He is safe—at least while the US government decides whether or not to appeal the court’s decision.

The 35-year-old first arrived in California with the heavily publicized migrant caravan in November 2018. He was returned to Tijuana in January along with thousands of other asylum-seekers, as part of the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” program, which keeps asylum seekers out of the US while their cases are being heard.

Oviedo won his case after he proved the threats he faces in Honduras constitute grounds for asylum under US law. He posted on Facebook today thanking God for remaining by his side throughout the process and sharing pictures from California.

He is one of only a few Central Americans to receive asylum since the Trump administration started tightening restrictions. The administration changed the rules in June 2018, telling immigration courts that gang violence or  domestic abuse are not legitimate grounds for an asylum claim. This reversed a long-standing precedent and precluded many Central American claims. This summer the administration also said persecution based on family ties is not a valid grounds for asylum.

Oviedo’s persecution was gang-related, but he was able to show that the gangs were targeting him for his religious activity and political positions. Religious and political persecution are grounds for asylum, but are harder to prove than threats of gang violence, which are ubiquitous in Honduras.

According to reports from the San Diego Union-Tribune, Oviedo told the judge he was “blacklisted” by the gangs because of his efforts to offer youth an alternative to gang membership.

Many Central Americans refugees have fled to the US with their children in recent years because the children have been recruited by the gangs, or groomed as gang “girlfriends.” The increase in families apprehended at the border has stressed the US Customs and Border Patrol processing facilities and ICE detention facilities. The system continues to be overwhelmed and the humanitarian crisis is ongoing.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today