The Stories of Our Clients
As humans, they have suffered trauma and indignities that no one should have to endure. But, because of their inner strength and resiliency, they have struggled through the most difficult challenges.-Immigrant Legal Center, Omaha, NE
NEJFON-NEJC Unaccompanied Minors Fund
Gustavo was born in rural Guatemala. His father abandoned him and his sister when he was 2-years-old. When he was 4-years-old, his mother decided to go to work in the city and left Gustavo and his sister with an aunt. This aunt was abusive toward Gustavo and his sister. She would beat Gustavo often – with a belt, a stick or anything that she could grab – and forced him to work long hours in the fields, harvesting coffee and carrying heavy wood logs to the house. Although Gustavo’s mother occasionally sent money to the aunt, the aunt did not use this money for Gustavo but rather spent it on herself.
Many times Gustavo would go to bed hungry. Whenever Gustavo complained to his aunt about being hungry or needing to rest, she would beat him and tell him that he should be grateful to her for allowing him to stay in her house and that it was not she who abandoned him but his parents. When Gustavo’s mother visited him and he told her about his aunt’s mistreatment of him, his mother sided with the aunt and told him that he had to do whatever the aunt told him to do. Gustavo only managed to go to school on the days that his aunt did not send him to work in the fields. At school, the other children would bully Gustavo because he had to go to school with dirty and tattered clothes and also they told him that his father was a drunk and a womanizer.
NEJFON-NEJC Unaccompanied Minors Fund (Con’t.)
When Gustavo was 14-years-old, he made the decision to quit school and start working as a tuk-tuk (motor bike taxi) driver because it was becoming very difficult to get any money to support himself and his sister and his aunt was constantly complaining about having to support them. Gustavo would drive his taxi all day. After a few months, gang members started attacking Gustavo and taking the money he had made. Gang members attacked other taxi drivers too, as they controlled the area where Gustavo lived. Eventually, the gang members made clear to Gustavo that he had to work for the gang members, pay them a share of what he earned weekly or they would kill him. When Gustavo tried to report the threats to the police, the police officer handling the matter said he would investigate but Gustavo never heard back from him. Several days later, while Gustavo was walking home after work, a gang-member confronted Gustavo, severely beat him for making the police report and told Gustavo he had one last chance to pay, but that the amount had tripled. Gustavo fled Guatemala shortly after he recovered from that beating. After making the long, perilous journey to the U.S., Gustavo is living with the pastor of his church.
Thanks to the support of the Northeast Justice Center and NEJFON, Gustavo has successfully applied for a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Visa and is in line to receive his green card as soon as a visa becomes available. Gustavo is studying and is about to complete the GRE exam, so that he can continue his education, take on a profession and make a life for himself here in the U.S.
Special Juvenile Immigrant Status
Y. is a young woman from Guatemala who was abandoned by her father when she was very young. The mother of Y. registered Y.’s uncle as Y.’s father on her birth certificate, because it was improper for a child to not have a father in her culture. Y. never knew her real father and grew up living in extreme poverty with a mother who barely made enough to survive. As Y. became older, gang members started threatening her so that she would become “their woman”, telling her that she would lack nothing if they became the girlfriend of gang members. Y. did not want to do this because of her Christian values and because she knew that young women who become romantic partners of gang members were often forced to sell drugs, and are often raped and murdered. Y. fled to the United States, to escape this violence and extreme poverty and to be able to continue studying.
With the help of her JFON affiliated Justice Center attorney, Y. was able to work with the Probate and Family Court to untangle her complex family history and obtain the necessary finding that Y. had been abandoned by her true father, so that she could become eligible for a Special Immigrant Juvenile Visa. Now Y. has obtained a Special Immigrant Juvenile status and is awaiting the availability of the corresponding visa that will allow her to adjust her status, become a permanent resident of the United States and have the security and educational opportunity she has always dreamed of.
Contesting An Order for Removal
M. is an immigrant from Africa who, although he has lived in the United States for many years, allowed his visa to expire and never adjusted to a permanent status in the United States. Approximately one year ago, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained M. because of his expired visa and M. has been held in a county jail ever since.
For months, M.’s JFON-affiliated attorneys at the Northeast Justice Center, as well as other volunteer attorneys, including a parishioner at one of the JFON New England member churches, have been fighting for M.’s release, efforts which have included two bond hearings before the Boston Immigration Court and a habeas corpus petition before the Federal Court in Boston. Finally, an Immigration Judge granted M.’s request for release on bond. M. is expected to walk out of jail and continue to fight his removal from the United States without the burden of his ongoing detention.
Special Juvenile Immigrant Status
J. is a seventeen-year-old young woman from Brazil who is the survivor of rape (by her father) and who became pregnant at the age of sixteen. J. fled Brazil after her father was incarcerated, her mother became unable to care for her and she was abandoned by the father of her child. J. came to the United States, without work authorization and without any meaningful prospect at improving her and her child’s lives. J. came to the JFON clinic just before the onset of the COVID-19 public health crisis and only months before her eighteenth birthday.
Thanks to the swift action of her JFON-affiliated attorneys at the Northeast Justice Center, J. was placed into a guardianship through the Probate and Family Court and received an order from that Court making her eligible for a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status visa, which, if she obtains it, will pave the way for J. to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States with the ability to secure a job and a future for her as well as her child. Although J. is only in the early stages of regularizing her status in the United States, she now has hope for a better future.
Special Juvenile Immigrant Status
D. and G. are young men from Guatemala who came to the United States in search of a better life after they were abandoned or neglected by their parents in Guatemala. Although both D. and G. have successfully applied for and obtained Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, thanks to assistance from their JFON-affiliated Northeast Justice Center attorneys, the annual visa limits for applicable Special Immigrant Juvenile Visas have been reached this year and the ongoing backlog of visas available for Special Immigrant Juveniles from Guatemala is so large that neither D. nor G. will be able to obtain their visas and become permanent residents for a number of years.
Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland Security does not believe that D. or G. should be allowed to remain in the United States while they await the availability of their visas and is actively trying to obtain an Immigration Court order to remove D. and G. to Guatemala.
Building upon their years of experience representing special immigrant juveniles, D. and G.’s Justice Center attorneys have developed an impact litigation strategy that will challenge the propriety of Homeland Security’s efforts to undermine the Special Immigrant Juvenile Program in this way and will pursue that strategy before the Boston Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals and the First Circuit Court of Appeals – if necessary – to ensure that D., G. and other similarly-situated special immigrant juveniles are not heartlessly returned to Central America. Although this effort may take years to bear fruit, a success on this front will ensure that countless special immigrant juveniles like D. and G. remain in the United States and build lives here, in spite of the increasing animosity directed at them in this country.