SoCal churches shut down by pandemic offer refuge to immigrants released from detention

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Tsegai, who fled persecution in Eritrea, holds a rosary given to him by family members. After he was released from the Adelanto ICE Processing Facility on Sept. 8, 2020, an Episcopal church in San Bernardino County took him in. Shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic, some churches are housing immigrants released from detention. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Tsegai, who fled persecution in Eritrea, holds a rosary given to him by family members. After he was released from the Adelanto ICE Processing Facility on Sept. 8, 2020, an Episcopal church in San Bernardino County took him in. Shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic, some churches are housing immigrants released from detention. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Before Tsegai fled Eritrea and made the months-long journey to the United States to seek asylum, his image of this country was colored by what he’d seen on TV.

America, he thought, was the kind of place where people could be welcomed in with nothing and manage to turn their lives around.

But when the 30-year-old arrived last year on Christmas Day, officials cuffed his wrists and ankles and led him to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility, where he spent eight months detained. Tsegai asked The Times to identify him only by his first name out of fear of persecution.

“I didn’t expect it, so it was a very terrifying experience,” he said through an interpreter.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

Tsegai sits in the doorway of his room while staying in a church on Sept. 22, 2020 in San Bernardino County. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)
Tsegai sits in the doorway of his room while staying in a church on Sept. 22, 2020 in San Bernardino County. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

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