SAN LUIS OBISPO, California (Border Report) — San Luis Obispo is called “SLO” by its residents and is located in the Edna Valley known for its wines and proximity to Highway 1, which hugs California’s scenic central coastline.
It’s also home to renowned Cal Poly State University.
It is in this community where Nabeel Younis has landed and is adapting to life in the United States.
“The journey so far before I arrived here was very difficult, but after arriving here I forgot everything, coming here was worth it,” Younis said.
Younis’ journey began more than two years ago when he left Pakistan for Panama with a group of friends.
“People especially in my country Pakistan, Christians are not safe and they are discriminated against and face a lot of persecution.”
While in Panama, Younis worked and even learned to speak Spanish while saving money.
Then in November he and his friends decided it was time to come to the United States.
But as they traveled through Mexico on their way to the U.S. border, they faced a lot of adversity getting robbed, beaten and jailed for a month in the city of Tijuana.
Upon getting released and being sent to a shelter, they wasted little time and headed for the Mexicali-Calexico border about 120 miles east of San Diego.
With the help of a smuggler, they climbed a ladder over the border barrier and dropped into U.S. territory where they were apprehended by Border Patrol agents.
Younis ended up at the Imperial Detention Facility in Calexico; his friends were sent to other detention centers.
After a month in custody and initiating his asylum claim, Younis was released and made it to San Luis Obispo.
“They certainly had the gumption to say we have to get out of Pakistan, it’s just not a good place for Christians,” said Fitzgerald Kelly, Younis’ sponsor and friend.
The two met five years ago when Kelly was traveling through Pakistan and Younis helped him with transportation from the airport in Islamabad.
The two stayed in touch over the years, and when Kelly heard Younis had crossed the border and needed help, he offered his home and financial resources.
“He is so enthusiastic about being in California,” Kelly said.
Younis has been trying to find work and has looked into enrolling in a nursing program nearby.
“I think in two years I see myself as an RN, registered nurse because that’s what I always dreamt about when I was in Panama and Pakistan,” Younis said.
Kelly is convinced Younis will become an American success story.
“My question is how successful will he be,” Kelly said.
Younis still has a long way to go before being granted asylum.
He has a court hearing scheduled for later this week when he hopes an ankle monitor will be removed.
“It kind of hurts when I walk, but I’ve kind of gotten used to it,” Younis said.
If the monitor is removed, Younis will have to enroll in an online tracking system that works through an app on his phone something with which he is OK doing.
“I’m just so happy to be here, I talk to my parents every day and they too are very happy for me and my sister who works for the U.S. embassy in Pakistan, she’s ready to come here too.”
As for Younis’ friends who made the trek to the U.S. with him, two are in Denver and he’s not sure what happened to his other friend.