Asylum seeker Jaren Rodriguez Orellana is one step closer to being reunited with his family in the U.S. The 20-year-old Honduran immigrant, who Fusion followed crossing back into the United States on March 10th, passed his credible fear interview; he convinced immigration officials he would be persecuted if he returned to the country where was born.
Orellana will now head to an immigration judge, the next step in the asylum process.
The credible fear interview result news is bittersweet for Orellana. He could remain in an immigration facility in San Diego, California for many more weeks, depending on how quickly his case is processed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). And the vast majority of immigrants that followed Orellana, who was the first to cross in a campaign called Bring Them Home, have either failed their credible fear interviews, been deported, or remain in detention with no answer at all.
Orellana said he was summoned at around 7:30am on Monday by two immigration officers who delivered the news.
"I think I was getting a panic attack, like I couldn't breathe for a second but then I controlled it," Orellana explained during a phone call from a San Diego detention facility that describes to have prison-like conditions.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) spokesperson Bill Wright could not confirm Orellana’s credible fear results citing privacy concerns. But Bring Them Home organizers confirmed that Orellana — along with four other crossers — received news on Monday that credible fear interviews were approved.
“We are very happy that Jaren will be able to move to the next step in the asylum process, and we hope that ICE will release him so he can rejoin his family while he is preparing his case,” said David Bennion
“Unfortunately, his is one of the few cases the [DHS] has approved. I worry that the Obama administration is applying a much stricter standard to these cases in order to please anti-immigrant politicians.”
Another asylum seeker who passed the interview was Brian Borjas, according to organizers. Brian was brought to the United States illegally when he was 2 years old. After Borjas was swept up in a Greyhound raid in 2010, he returned to Cali, Colombia, the rated the fourth most dangerous city in the world.
If Borjas and Orellana are granted asylum they may apply for a green card, and subsequently be eligible for citizenship.
“I feel a lot better, before I felt tense all the time and now I’m not stressed out anymore and I feel great,” Orellana said.
“I know I’m not out yet, but I’m almost out.”
Cristina is an Emmy-nominated reporter and producer. She recently won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for her documentary Death by Fentanyl. She attended Yale University and has reported for the New Haven Independent, ABC News, Univision, The Huffington Post, and Fusion.
Jorge Rivas is the national affairs correspondent at Fusion. He follows the national conversation through the lens of racial, sexual, and political identity.