Good evening everyone. Thank you for inviting me to this very important event. My name is Ismael, and I am 18 years old. I now live in Washington, DC, but I am originally from Honduras. There, I lived with my mom and my older sister.
When I was 12 years old, I faced the crime of my country. Before that, I lived a calm life. I attended school and played with my friends.
One day, I got on the bus to go to school. Some gang members were waiting for me to get off the bus. They told me that they wanted me to sell drugs for them. I never wanted to involve myself with the gangs. I knew they were dangerous and very bad. They pursued me because my father had died, and they knew that I didn’t have a man to protect me.
I was very afraid.
I was afraid not only for me, but for my mom and my sister.
I want you all to understand that in Honduras, there is not protection against this type of violence. One cannot look for help from the police. They don’t do anything when there are problems with the gangs. Maybe they are involved with the gang, or they may also be afraid.
I spoke with my mom and told her what had happened to me. We decided that the only solution to be safe was for me to leave my country. I would go to the United States or another country, but I had to leave.
I also decided to leave because I am gay. I couldn’t talk to my parents about this. It is not something one discusses in Honduras. There are no protections for gay people in Honduras, and they suffer a lot. It is very dangerous to be gay there.
I left Honduras with my aunt, but we were separated during the journey, and I don’t know where she went.
At the end of the path, I was walking alone.
It was a very difficult journey. Some parts were calm, but in others, I felt scared and sad.
I entered the United States in 2015 and I was caught by immigration. I was first sent to the “icebox.”
After that, I was detained for three months until my cousin could take me.
My Case Manager in the detention center referred me to KIND (Kids in Need of Defense) for legal help.
It was very difficult to do my case for asylum. I had to work a lot with my attorney and talk about difficult things. We met several times until we had the trust that was needed for me to share all of my story. She was the person who knew the qualifications for asylum. I don’t know what I would have done without an attorney. It would have been impossible to fight my case without my attorney, Cynthia. I want you all to know that kids need lawyers so that the court process is fair.
I am happy to say that two months ago, my asylum was approved. Today, I feel happy because there is a certainty that I am safe.
In these last few months, I have also been able to participate in very significant activities. One of which, was when KIND invited me to Capitol Hill. That day was very special for me, and one that I will never forget. I felt empowered to share my story and optimistic that I can one day make a big difference in others’ lives with the support of such powerful and influential people.
To conclude, in the future I would like to go to College. Even though I am still exploring what I would like to specialize in, what I do know for sure is that the possibilities in this country are endless. For that, and for KIND, I am very thankful.
Ismael gave the above speech at KIND’s 10-year anniversary gala, watch below.