CHICAGO — The fate of a boy brought to the U.S. as a toddler when his family fled Honduras remains undecided Wednesday, after a judge ordered the case continued until 2020.
Chanting, "long live the United States," 8-year-old Iker Velazquez arrived at the immigration courthouse Wednesday carrying the American flag, hoping he would gain refugee status and be able to call the U.S. his permanent home.
But a judge's ruling will prolong the wait for Iker and his mother Evelyn, as his case has been continued until March of next year.
“All I want to say it that I want freedom,” Iker said as he testified during the hearing.
Evelyn Velazquez came to the U.S. from Honduras in 2014, when Iker was just 3 years old. Testifying Wednesday, she said her life and his safety were being threatened by gang members in the country because of her political affiliation.
She said the same gang brutally murdered a neighbor. On cross-examination, the government pointed out gangs and gang brutality are a problem for everyone in Honduras.
"They have a particularized fear of prosecution… everyone in Honduras is in fear," their attorney Christopher Helt said.
Evelyn and Iker traveled nearly 2,000 miles by foot, car and bus until they arrived in the U.S., and in the years since have settled in Waukegan. Iker’s 2nd grade classmates surprised him with a book of supportive and encouraging notes Tuesday, wishing him luck.
Iker’s teacher Jennifer Handyside also attended the hearing.
"As educators we feel Iker's future is dependent upon his parents be able to raise him in the greatest country in the world, the United States," Handyside said.
Iker and Evelyn will be allowed to stay in the U.S. until the case is heard again on March 10, 2020.