Tsegai, 30, who fled persecution in Eritrea over being a member of an ethnic minority, on Sept. 22 holds a rosary given to him by family members while staying in a church in San Bernardino County, California.

LOS ANGELES — Before Tsegai fled Eritrea and made the monthslong 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.

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