At the age of 16, one man walked 7,500 miles to escape murder.
Growing up in Honduras, Louis Canales was surrounded by drug and gang violence. His passion for justice motivated him to speak out against gangs and the fear they imposed on the people in his hometown of Siguatepeque.
After a radio station broadcast his opposition to gangs, 14-year-old Canales began receiving death threats. As the threats became more serious, including a gang member shooting at him while riding his bicycle to work, Canales knew he had to leave Siguatepeque: “I fell from my bike and was knocked unconscious… The gang member thought he had killed me, so he took off” (Lear, 2017, paragraph 4).
Without a car, there was only one thing for Canales to do; he started walking. His destination? The United States. By 16-years-old Canales had walked 2,400 miles, but was then intercepted by immigration and returned to Honduras. Undeterred, Canales made three more attempts, eventually walking a total of 7,500 miles before being allowed to enter the country legally. That was 2005.
Twelve years later, Canales has worked tirelessly to better his situation. He earned his GED, graduated from college with honors, attended Villanova University Law School and become a U.S. citizen. In his spare time, he gives back to the community by volunteering at a Scranton, PA organization that teaches ESL to immigrants.
In September 2016, Canales was selected to address the United Nations on the importance of protecting the rights of immigrants, migrants and refugees. When asked his point of view on President Trump’s immigration policy, Canales replied, “According to the Immigration and Naturalization Act, it is not a crime to cross the border. It is a civil offense, not criminal. (Illegal) immigrants can be sent back, but it is not a crime. People should follow the law, but the immigration laws in the U.S. are broken and need to be repaired” (Lear, 2017, paragraph 8).
Canales also added that if he had waited in line to enter the country the gangs would have caught up with him, and he would be dead. He believes that immigration cases need to be judged individually on a case-by-case basis: “Every country has some bad people. It is outrageous to label all Latinos or immigrants as bad… I love this country…We don’t come here to take but to give back” (Lear, 2017, paragraph 10).
For more information on this topic, please read Len Lear’s article, “From Honduras to Philadelphia Nearly killed, immigrant walked 7,500 miles to survive.”
Lear, L. (2017, June 22). From Honduras to Philadelphia Nearly killed, immigrant walked 7,500 miles to survive. Chestnut Hill Local. Retrieved from http://www.chestnuthilllocal.com/2017/06/22/nearly-killed-immigrant-walked-7500-miles-to-survive/