This month, Henry – a teen from El Salvador who became an FBI informant – was deported. The 19-year-old who was twice forced to join MS-13 – an international street gang – believes that returning can only end in his death.
When Henry started working with the FBI, he believed it was the only way he could guarantee a better future for himself. After arriving to the United States from El Salvador, he hoped to put his past behind him. And for a while he did, but during sophomore year at Brentwood High School, he was forced to re-join the gang. After confessing everything he had done as a member of MS-13 to a teacher, he ended up working with an FBI agent, who told the teen that in exchange for providing information about MS-13, he’d receive protection.
However, immigration judge Thomas Mulligan wrote in his decision that even though he found Henry’s testimony “truthful,” he had no choice but to deport him because he’d admitted to participating in two murders when he was 12 (although he was coerced). The judge also said that his chances of being tortured in El Salvador were “less than 50 percent,” according to ProPublica.
Though some encouraged him to appeal the decision, especially considering the level of sympathy the judge had for him, the young man felt that staying at the New Jersey detention center, where he received threats, was also dangerous. An appeals court would likely take years, and the time he had spent in the detention center had already taken a toll on his health.
He was deported on January 10 to El Salvador, where a team met him to take him to Europe. He’s now applying for asylum from a new city, and he’s grateful for the people who donated to a GoFundMe account to help him get to safety.