Alex Sánchez organizing for human rights
“My parents left me and my brother in El Salvador for five years and at the age of seven I was reunited with people who said they were my parents, but I did not know them, says Alex Sánchez.”
It was a difficult life coming to a country with no English skills, facing the racism of the schools, the street violence and no one to defend a small child.
At the same time Alex’s mother adopted an ultra-strict religion with many difficult standards accompanied by physical discipline (such as beatings), which drove him to seek refuge with other youths, many in worse conditions than his own, for companionship and protection.
By age 14, he was participating in a gang structure now known as La Mara Salva Trucha or MS-13. And by 1994 he was in prison for a probation violation. Then he was deported to El Salvador.
That Central American country was filled with its own violence, including a death squad called La Sombra Negra, or the Black Shadow. Within two days after arriving in El Salvador, Alex had a death sentence on him.
Alex then did what many undocumented individuals do in that situation: He made the difficult trip north to the United States and a returned to the old neighborhood and the MS-13.
Alex later saw a budding new organization called Homies United that had been formed in El Salvador in 1996. He was soon asked to join their leadership at a National Youth Conference in Santa Cruz sponsored by Barrios Unidos and its amazing leader Nane Alejandrez.
This conference opened a door into the future showing Alex how different clickas and neighborhoods could come together to work to diminish violence and provide reasonable futures for Salvadorans, Central Americans and home-grown homies.
Alex began helping to build the Los Angeles office of Homies Unidos and began changing the lives of many youths through his example.
Twice the government has tried to deport Alex and it has jailed him each time. The police and immigration did not like seeing a former gang member was fight hard for the human rights of all immigrants.
Since 2015 Alex has sponsored an annual Central American Youth Conference attended by 500 students and teachers from a number of schools in Los Angeles. “We want to give these youths a history lesson into their indigenous history and a great menu of possibilities for their futures,” he says.
Alex also is helping to design Los Angeles County’s first Probation Oversight Commission to improve and monitor this important part of the criminal justice system.
Alex has had to fight to stay alive on the difficult streets of both El Salvador and of Los Angeles. Now he is a beacon of hope for all who come to know him.
“When I get my Green Card, I will work on a transnational criminal justice system plan to address the mass deportation of criminalized immigrants,” he says.
Alex is a voice for peace and prosperity for every community that he can touch through his work with Homies Unidos.