Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you all for inviting me to speak today. It is a great pleasure to be in front of so many VIPs, that is, very important people. My name is Juan Pablo Lopez Cruz. I am here today to share with you my experiences going to immigration court and why I think that this new video will help other teenagers feel more comfortable when they go to court.
First, I would like to share with you a little bit about my personal history.
When I was only fifteen years old, I was forced to leave everything behind in Honduras. I was searching for safety from my parents who abandoned and abused me over many years since I was a little child. When I reached America, instead of finding safety, I found a jail cell in a juvenile jail. I did not receive the attention I needed. This was in 2001 when the Immigration and Naturalization Service was in charge of the children.
I was really scared the first time I went to immigration court. I could not sleep and almost cried before my court since I was scared about what the judge would decide, whether I can stay or be sent back. It was a horrible feeling after everything I suffered to achieve safety and my American Dream. After all my effort, and with the help of many volunteer attorneys, I was able to obtain asylum. The immigration judge really listened to me and cared about my fear of being returned to the hands of my abusers.
I wish I had seen this video before but unfortunately it did not exist. After watching this video, I believe that many other children now can learn what the immigration court is really like. The video will be very helpful for children to tell their whole, true story to the judge since it is confidential.
I have also seen the user's guide for the video. I think it's better for children to watch the video with their lawyers or social workers using this guide. The guide will make it more interactive and will give the children more confidence.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone again for this opportunity including all the people who worked hard on the video. I also want to thank everyone like Angelina Jolie who has empathy for the thousands of forgotten children who really need us. I think that the video is an excellent way to engage youth to feel confident in immigration court and become great citizens.
Thanks to you all, my life has changed. I now work as a counselor at the Latin American Youth Center. I really enjoy this work with the youth since I am making a contribution to their lives and the community. I am also now finishing high school and plan to go to college to major in international business. I am so happy to be part of this effort which will help change the future of many other children. Thank you for being part of our dreams.