Sanctuary Sellout

Before: S.F. coddled undocumented teen criminals. After: S.F. punishes undocumented teens who commit crimes (and some who don't, too).

Another legal obstacle is collecting evidence from abroad to corroborate the family's tale (once again, the names have been changed): the township on the outskirts of San Salvador where they lived is known as a MS-13 hotbed, and Martinez's father, Jaime, says thugs came calling to extort $1,000 a month from the family to continue operating a convenience store out of their home. Jaime refused to pay, and claims that as a result, his taxi went up in flames while it was in the repair shop in 2005. He got a restraining order against a man who kept coming by the house, threatening to kill the kids if the family didn't pay, and later received a written death threat. "I said, 'I'm not going to go on like this,'" he says. "So I told my wife we have no other option but to leave."

Once in San Francisco, the couple found work in the underground economy — Jaime in construction work, Maria cleaning houses — and Oscar attended public San Francisco schools. The family is still paying off the debt — $35,000 — to the coyotes who helped them cross the border, but had at least gained a modicum of peace.

Until, of course, their son was reported to ICE. "I felt like they'd thrown a bucket of water on me," Jaime says, recalling the December day he got a call. "To tell us that one of us has to go, I think they might as well condemn us all to death. With all the threats we received, I think it would be death for us."

Persuading an immigration judge of that is another thing. So, for now, the family prays for immigration reform and for their son to be able to stay. "We don't even want to think about it," Maria says of the possibility her son will be deported. "We're going to fight till the end."

"I know that it costs money to send for him again, but it's not about that," Jaime says. "The problem is the risk to his life."

Oscar says sometimes he'll sit in the park on his way to school and think about what will happen if he's deported, and about the possibility of making the trip back to the United States alone.

Sitting in the hallway outside the immigration courtroom, he sighs loudly and ticks off his feelings towards the situation: "Mad. Sad. Confused." And, of course, regret.

If he could go back to the day when he was bullied into carrying the knife, he says he would have told the principal. Or he would have thrown the knife away. "I know I messed up," he says. San Francisco has ensured he can't take that back.

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