Each year, many arrivals in the US from other countries apply for asylum in the US, fearing to return to their homelands. Asylum status in the US allows someone to remain in the US and even eventually apply for immigration status if they face persecution in their home country. Immigration reporter Mario Guevara applied for asylum status, fearing to return to his home of El Salvador.
That request for asylum was recently denied and Guevara says that he now understands the difficult position many immigrants find themselves in – a position that he has often written about as a reporter and one that he is now experiencing first-hand. Guevara’s request for asylum was turned down last month by a judge. Now, his family – including himself, his teenage daughter, and his wife – have sixty days to leave the US. The entire family is upset by the news and is unsure what to do.
Guevara covers immigration stories for Mundo Hispanico, a Spanish-language publication owned by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In addition to work, Guevara has many ties with the US. Guevara’s brother and mother are US citizens and Guevara’s brother even serves in the US military. Guevara’s two younger children are US citizens because they were born in the US.
Guevara moved to the US in the early 2000s, after facing violence in his native El Salvador. In 2003, Guevara worked in San Salador as a photojournalist for the newspaper there. He was often taking photos of anti-government demonstrators, and some accused him of working for the government. He denies that allegation, but he was threatened and attacked twice. He entered the US in 2004, hoping that he would eventually be able to return to El Salvador. It is for this reason and due to post-traumatic stress disorder, he says, that he did not apply for asylum status immediately after entering the US on a tourist visa.
The judge who denied the asylum request cited the late filing as one reason for the rejection. The fact that no journalists from El Salvador have been attacked or killed for political reasons in the past few years was also cited as a reason. Finally, the judge also said that Guevara was not able to prove that the Salvadoran police were ineffective in protecting him. Guevara has stated that he plans to appeal. He is upset, saying that newspapers in El Salvador have already published information about his case, ensuring that he and his family cannot re-enter that country quietly. He has also stated that his is concerned that those who made death threats against him before may still be waiting for him when he returns.