Erik Javier Flores Hernandez will always remember his 18th birthday, but not because of a great b-day bash or because he could legally pick up a box of cigarettes or cast his vote. The undocumented teen will recall the Saturday as the day Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents dragged him away in shackles from a Los Angeles children's shelter to an adult detention facility.
Flores Hernandez, who has no criminal history, came to the U.S. when he was 17, escaping what the Immigrant Defenders Law Center has described as "horrific violence" in Mexico. In his homeland, the teen's mother and grandmother both disappeared due to cartel violence. Even Flores Hernandez has received death threats from Mexican drug traffickers.
He came to the U.S., where he has a pending asylum case, for survival, for a chance to live without the everyday fears and violence he knows back home.
“Erik has family in the community who are willing to sponsor him. Erik has volunteers who have offered to help connect him with resources to help him heal. Erik is represented by an attorney with the Immigrant Defenders Law Center. Erik has no criminal history. Erik has been the victim of traumatic violence and fled his country to seek safety here in the US,” the Law Center wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday.
Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director at the Law Center, told Univision Noticias that before President Donald Trump took office, “we had never seen a detention like this of a minor turning 18, without a criminal record, and with a pending asylum case.”
According to her, in cases like these, authorities usually seek alternatives to detention, like sending people to adult shelters or allowing teens to stay with family members.
ICE is currently reviewing the circumstances of Flores Hernandez's case. His next hearing for his asylum is scheduled for late May.