Photography by Elizabeth Lavin

Immigration

How the Victim of an Attempted Gang Murder in El Salvador Found New Life in Dallas

Luis Lemus was left for dead after his cousin stabbed him as part of a gang initiation ritual. Now he is a student at North Dallas High School.

In October 2015, I wrote about five refugees who moved to North Texas and were helped by Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, a non-profit organization that provides legal services to to immigrant survivors of violence in the United States. The subjects of the story included a woman from Gambia whose family was forcing her to undergo female circumcision; a Sudanese man whose life was threatened after he participated in student political demonstrations; a Chinese woman who was the victim of domestic violence; and a Pakistani Christian minster who received death threats because of his faith.

Perhaps the most extraordinary story I heard was that of Luis Lemus. Lemus is a teenager from El Salvador who was stabbed by his cousin as part of a gang initiation ritual. Left for dead, he managed to pull himself out of ditch and board a bus before slipping into a coma. He knew the gang would come back for him if they found out he survived the attempted murder, and so Lemus set out on a long and difficult journey north towards refuge in the United States.

Especially as ideas about Muslim bans and border walls circulate through the national conversation, stories like Lemus’ reveal the human stakes that are at the center of the questions of immigration and global migration. Yesterday, in the Dallas Morning News, Lemus, now 19 and attending North Dallas High School, shared his story in full. Here’s a taste:

The doctors told my parents that I would likely be in a vegetative state for the rest of my life. They considered taking me off life support. Fortunately by then I had family members there to support me and persuaded the doctors to keep me on the ventilator.

I remember dreaming throughout the 15 days I was in a coma. In the papers from the hospital, doctors reported that my heart stopped for three minutes. I think this was the time when I had one of my most unusual dreams.

I dreamed that a spaceship came to Earth. Before it arrived I saw a bright light in the sky and heard a voice that told me to get ready. On the ship there was a man whose face I could not see because it was radiating light. He kindly asked me and a few others to come inside.

Read the whole thing here.

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