"Lionel" was raised in Guatemala by his grandmother until age 12, when he was forced to live with his father who forced him to stop attending school and work full-time on a construction site. Lionel, a small and slender child, was forced to do things like strap heavy construction materials to his back and carry them up several flights of stairs, six days a week. For three years, Lionel performed hard labor while his father received all of his hard-earned money. Often he went without food, and if he was caught going to his grandmother’s house to be fed, his father would beat him.
All of Lionel’s pleas to again live with his grandmother were met with vicious brutal violence at the hands of his father, who oftentimes beat him multiple times each week, including when he tried to protect his little sister from his father’s abuse. Once Lionel was hung by his wrists and suspended in the air, then beaten with a rod for close to an hour.
When he was 15, Lionel decided to flee to the United States to live with his mother. He made the perilous trip through Mexico alone – traveling by bus, train, and on foot. When Lionel crossed the U.S. border, he approached border patrol agents and was placed in removal proceedings. He was identified as a victim of labor trafficking by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and was detained for about nine months before being released to the custody of his mother in Florida.
AI Justice staff traveled to Homestead to meet with Lionel and prepare his asylum case. In March of 2015, Lionel’s application for asylum as a child victim of trafficking was granted by the Miami Asylum Office and AI Justice is now working to get him his green card. Lionel is currently a junior in high school and hopes to one day become a police officer.