Mother tries to secure US visa for murdered son

- Posted in America by Visa Bureauon 23 January 2012

Josue Rafael Orellana Garcia failed to convince US immigration authorities that he faced gang violence in his native Honduras and was returned there in 2010. He was found shot to death last year.

Now his family are trying to secure him an American visa posthumously in an attempt to force the American government to acknowledge the threat of gang violence that many Central American teenagers face.

Mr Orellana had attempted to reach his mother, a legal resident, in New Jersey after, according to his mother, the taunts and bullying about his disabilities turned to the threat of death if he did not join a gang.

His claims for asylum were turned down on the grounds that applicants must prove a well-founded and documented fear of persecution due to their race, religion, nationality or political opinion; something US Immigration Judge Frederic Leeds claimed Orellana failed to do.

Now however, the Orellana family's attorney, Joshua Bardavid, claims that after being shot dead after being deported, he now meets the required burden of proof needed to be granted asylum.

"I think it's something that needs to be acknowledged: that we failed him" said Mr Bardavid. "That he came here seeking safety and the entire system let him down."

Mr Orellana's mother, Josefa Rafaela Garcia Mejia, explained that Mr Orellana had been picked on from an early age after suffering debilitating injuries when Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduras in 1998. As he got older, Ms Mejia claims, Mr Orellana was pursued by gangs until he fled, against her advice, to the US.

In his court hearing in 2009, the presiding judge inquired as to why, if Mr Orellana was facing gang violence and had even been attacked on several occasions, why he had never contacted the police. Mr Orellana explained that the police were afraid to come to his neighbourhood.

Honduras has one of the highest homicide rates of anywhere in the world, with more than 6,000 murders in 2010 alone. The violence and instability has grown to such a rate that the Peace Corps has withdrawn from the country and the US government has agreed to help Honduras with their "citizen security issues".

Mr Orellana's case has provoked calls for the US immigration authorities to expand their conditions for asylum to modern forms of conflict such as gang violence and, with immigration proving such an important issue in the impending presidential election, Mr Orellana's case could prove influential among the 12 million Latin American voters, many of whom are familiar with the threat of gang violence.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.