WitnessLA, June 5, 2019.
From juvenile hall to county jail to prison to deportation, I’ve experienced first-hand the lifelong obstacles that contact with the criminal justice system can produce. As a troubled youth in the mid to late 1980s, I found that my time in LA County Probation’s juvenile halls and camps provided few resources or guidance to change my negative behavior. Instead, I learned better ways to defend myself against other troubled, gang-involved youth. It was gladiator school, in those days, and the fights were sometimes even encouraged by the probation staff.
In 1994, my actions led me to be deported back to El Salvador where, on my second day in the country, I was threatened by a local gang and, in the following days, confronted with violence far worse than I had ever experienced in Los Angeles. Pressure by the government and the civil police to eradicate the gangs in El Salvador led to the formation of death squads who killed anyone perceived to be involved in gangs—whether they actually were or not.
I decided I had to find a way to come back to the United States to be a father to my one-year-old son and to look for a better life for myself, and for him.