The Inside Scoop From Former Immigrant Teen

Posted on July 10, 2015 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Catholic Charities’ own Migration Counselor Elvis Garcia Callejas was invited with a group of immigrants and refugees to participate in the national 2015 Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy held last month in Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Only 85 people were chosen for this three-day conference.   And only eight, including Elvis, were chosen to meet at the White House with top government officials.

The conference goal was to train future leaders to advocate for laws that provide protections for immigrants and refugees.  Elvis and his group of eight then met with officials about immigration policies and the role the U.S. should take protecting these vulnerable populations.

Elvis’ selection was sweeter still because he once was a teenage migrant alone in the U.S.  Now he helps new arrivals who face struggles similar to his.

After the conference Elvis shared his background with Robert Carey, director of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Fifteen years old, hungry and alone, Elvis hitched rides, scrambled atop freight trains and dragged himself through deserts for 1,200 miles to reach his promised land, the United States.  His native Honduras had turned into a wasteland where teenage gangs held shootouts on village streets.

“Coming to the U.S. all by myself at the age of 15 was really tough, but I was lucky to have help from so many great people and organizations,” Elvis told Mr. Carey. “I’m proud to now work for Catholic Charities, who with the help of ORR, make sure unaccompanied children know their rights and are able to access protection under US law. From personal experience, I know how important this support is.”