Thanks to movies and popular lore, we know how this is supposed to work: You rat out murderous gang members to the authorities and you get whisked away to some new place and handed a fresh identity. Henry did the first part but has been denied the second. ProPublica and New York magazine have the story of the Salvadoran immigrant, who sought asylum in the US in 2013 at age 15; he was fleeing MS-13, the gang he belonged to. It's a gang that revolves around intense violence, and Henry's entrance to it, at age 12, involved him murdering a strung-up man with a machete. He ended up living with family in Long Island, whose Suffolk County is home to so many Salvadorans there's a consulate there. Henry enrolled at Brentwood High, and his freshman year went well. Then a teen from MS-13 back home enrolled in the school and recognized him.
The only way to leave MS-13 is in a coffin, and so Henry got forced back in—and became a party to what the local "clique," known as the Sailors, was doing. In 2016, MS-13 killed 3 high schoolers and buried them in the woods; that fall, a female classmate and her friend were killed. Henry wanted out, and wrote an account of everything he had done with the gang and passed it to his English teacher. She said she wanted to help, and he was put it touch with a Suffolk County homicide detective who worked with the FBI. Henry began providing info on gang members, and then awaited his witness protection papers. Instead, he got arrested by ICE, which wanted to deport him based on the evidence he himself had supplied. And they put him in the very same place as the gang members he had snitched on. "He's screwed," as a former FBI agent puts it. Read the full story here. (Read more Longform stories.)