Teen who immigrated to US alone receives outpouring of support, promises to pass it forward

Posted August 22, 2016

Gaspar Marcos was 5 years old when his parents died. Seven years later, he left Guatemala and arrived at the United States border alone, one of the estimated 140,000 unaccompanied minors to arrive at U.S. border from Central America between 2009 and 2016.

After the LA Times featured Marcos in its mini-documentary and story "19 Hours: The life on an unaccompanied minor in L.A." on July 15, he received an outpouring of messages, comments and letters offering support and donations.

Now, an 18-year-old high school student, Marcos plans on paying it forward.

In a YouTube video posted three days after the mini-doc aired, Marcos expressed gratitude for the support and promised to donate half of whatever his GoFundMe page earned to Casa Libre, a shelter for minors in Los Angeles. As of Aug. 4, he's received more than $36,000 in donations.

"For me and all my peers, it feels great to feel visible and loved by all of you," Gaspar said in Spanish. "Something that I learned here at Casa Libre is that it's not only about me, but about all of us."

Marcos also requested that any lawyers interested in helping donate their time and efforts to Kids in Need of Defense, a group that provides legal services to refugee and unaccompanied migrant children.

Federico Bustamante Johnson, one of Marcos' teachers, wrote on the GoFundMe page that Marcos will donate half the money to assist his classmates at Belmont High School — where nearly one-fourth of students migrated from Central America — and his peers at Casa Libre.

"This will mean securing representation to address their immediate legal needs and eligibility for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), asylum, and other forms of immigration relief," Johnson wrote. "We will also be providing scholarships for recent graduates of Casa Libre (and friends of Gaspar) that have continued on to places like Cal Arts, Humboldt State, San Francisco State and CSUN."

The other 50 percent will go toward setting up a college and savings account for Marcos and supplementing his income so he can eventually switch to a weekend work schedule.

Marcos describes the challenges of working weeknights while attending high school full time, and admits to usually only getting between 3-5 hours of sleep each night.

"I usually sleep three hours, but there are times I don't sleep," Marcos said. "I just shower and head to school."

He sleeps in a bedroom of another family's apartment, whom he pays $600 a month. In spite of the challenges he faces, however, he remains optimistic.

"At first you must suffer, but maybe further along I'll have a better future," he said.

You can watch the full video and read more about Marcos on the LA Times' website.

Email:; Twitter: @sarapweber


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