SAN LUIS OBISPO, California (Border Report) — Nabeel Younis has been in Central California for almost a year living with his sponsor in San Luis Obispo.
Younis has started attending college and is awaiting a work permit to arrive in the mail any day now.
But what he seeks most is still more than three months away: asylum.
His case has been going through the immigration court system since he was taken to a detention facility in Calexico, California, where he got his first interview.
Upon his release from the facility in February 2022, he was turned over to his sponsor, Fitzgerald Kelly, who opened his home to Younis on California’s Central Coast.
While the process is taking more than a year, Younis told Border Report it hasn’t been as bad as he thought it was going to be.
“I personally believe that it’s not taking as long,” he said. “I thought in the beginning that it’s going to take a while, but it’s happening really fast and really smooth.
Younis first left his native Pakistan in January 2019 after years of what he calls persecution due to his Catholic faith in a Muslim country.
“I went to Panama and spent two years in Panama,” he said.
He worked as much as he could saving money and learning Spanish. He now speaks four languages.
In November 2021, he and a group of friends, also from Pakistan, set off for the United States.
“I went through many countries, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico and that took me entirely four months,” said Younis. “I slept in the mountains and I hiked a lot.”
Younis said he and his friends didn’t encounter big problems until they got to Mexico, specifically Tijuana on the border just south of San Diego.
“That’s when I was robbed, beaten and then I had to spend more than a month in a Tijuana immigration detention center where they would keep people for only four to five days, but they kept me there for a really long time and that was a really difficult time,” Younis said.
He went as far as to say it was the most difficult time he had ever experienced in his life.
After more than a month in custody, he was released and sent to a shelter.
But after only a few days, Younis and his friends decided to try their luck with a smuggler about 120 miles east of Tijuana near the city of Mexicali.
They got over the border barrier and were apprehended.
Younis was sent to Calexico’s Imperial Regional Detention Facility where he formally asked for asylum.
He is now represented by the Immigrant Legal Defense Center in Santa Barbara, which does a lot of pro bono work on behalf of migrants.
His next court date is set for May 9 in Van Nuys, California.
“I have my one last individual hearing. I’m going to find out if the judge has granted me asylum for religious persecution. If he grants me asylum then that would guarantee my permanent residency,” said Younis.
Younis said this would allow him to open a bank account, seek more job opportunities, travel freely and apply for citizenship five years down the road.
“That would be my dream come true, the United States has always been my dream country,” he said.
As for his friends who accompanied him on his journey to the United States, two are in the Denver area while a third is in Philadelphia.
“They’re all doing fine, they’re also awaiting their asylum cases,” Younis said.
Please check in with Border Report in the coming days to read and see how Younis is adapting to college life as he has begun his formal education seeking a degree in medicine.