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Asylum-seeker: ‘We didn’t have any other choice’

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EL CENTRO – “We were taking a big risk.”

That is how Alexandre Ferrerira described the decision to flee Brazil with his wife and two children, ages 8 and 12.

“We didn’t have any other choice,” he said. “The danger that surrounded us is not something I wanted my children to face or to lose one of them.”

He briefly shared his story while his family waited to board a van that would transport them from a hotel in El Centro to Yuma. There, they would take a flight to Boston, where he would reunite with his sister.

He is one of the dozens of men, women and children Catholic Charities has helped since April 5 after they were released by U.S. immigration authorities to await the outcome of their petition for asylum.

Ferrerira spoke in Portuguese, his words translated by Nadine Toppozada, who directs Refugee and Immigrant Services for Catholic Charities San Diego.

The father said his children faced a future “that would have been filled with violence, lack of education, danger and disease … We just decided to take the first step on the journey, rely on God, and just move forward.”

He said the family was detained for eight to 10 days by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. At one point, he and his wife and children were separated for six days.

“When you reach a place that is so dark and there is nothing worse that is possible, the only thing I could do is ask Jesus to hold my hand and guide me through.”

His words brought tears to those hearing them.

He said he did not know what to expect when he was released from detention.

“I got off the bus and the lady (from Catholic Charities) greeted me with a smile. That was the first time I saw someone smile.”

He thanked the organization for everything they did for his family, especially considering the services were free. The father was sure of one thing.

“Without my faith, there was no way I would have made it.”

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