Elena was 15 years old when she married her husband who was physically, sexually and emotionally abusive to her. After over a year of extreme suffering, she was finally able to escape his control. Elena reported her husband to the police in Guatemala and was granted several orders of protection, however her husband violated the orders and continued to abuse her. When she became pregnant with her son, she knew her only option to stay safe was to make the dangerous journey to the United States to seek protection. She entered the United States in June 2014 at the age of 17.
Elena’s AI Justice attorney prepared her asylum application and accompanied her to the asylum interview. Elena was granted asylum. She is now working to build a stable life for her young son, free from the fear of further violence.
"Tommy" lost his mother at a young age and Tommy’s father never provided him regular care or supervision. Tommy’s father left him after his mother passed away and the child was left in the care of his grandmother. Tommy was terrified that gangs were going to kill him as they had killed his boss for refusing to pay a “war tax.” Tommy had to quit school because the gangs were forcefully recruiting all the boys his age. Tommy also knew his elderly grandmother could no longer protect him or provide for him and chose to make the perilous journey to the US to the only relative willing and able to take care of him.
Tommy was referred to AI Justice just three weeks before he turned 18, which is the age at which children like Tommy “age out” and are no longer eligible for relief from deportation. AI Justice quickly began preparing his dependency case and filed it a week before Tommy’s 18th birthday in state juvenile court in Palm Beach County. Without judicial intervention, Tommy would have been ordered deported back to Honduras, a country with the world’s highest murder rate. One day prior to Tommy’s birthday, the dependency judge ruled in Tommy’s favor. AI Justice is currently awaiting his appointment with USCIS so we can obtain Tommy’s green card.
Five year old Alfonso was found screaming, alone in his apartment after his mother had been deported. His father was incarcerated and with no other family that could be located, he was placed in foster care in Miami Dade County. His foster mother, Tamara, decided to legally adopt him. Because Alfonso had been found alone, and was so young, he did not have any identifying documents. His immigration status, nationality and even birth date were uncertain.
The courts could not proceed with the adoption, which would provide Alfonso the family life and stability he so needed until his immigration status was resolved and his identity could be confirmed. AI Justice began an inquiry to determine his status and identity, a difficult and complex process due to the lack of any documentation and the fact that Alfonso had been born in a foreign country. AI Justice was finally able to determine Alfonso’s identity and obtain the documents necessary to prove his status, including a U.S. passport. Because of AI Justice’s work on Alfonso’s behalf, his foster mother was legally able to adopt him.
Alfonso now lives with his foster mother and is thriving, secure in the fact that he will remain with his loving family.
After years of physical abuse by his father, Alfredo fled Guatemala to save his life at age 14. He was detained by Immigration agents on arrival in 2001 and diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among other special needs. He only spoke a rare Mayan dialect, limiting his ability to communicate.
Alfredo was transferred among detention facilities 10 times, at times handcuffed and shackled. His request for asylum was denied, though the Immigration Judge believed he was terribly abused and would not be protected. AI Justice finally got permission from Immigration officials to take Alfredo’s case to state juvenile court, the first such consent in the Miami District. That led to his release after 18 months in detention. He went to live with the pro bono interpreter that AI Justice had found for him.
“Whenever I was taken somewhere,’’ Alfredo said, “AI Justice was always there to help me out and to visit me.” Ultimately, he got his green card and went to live and work in Ohio.
Seven-year-old Fega arrived at a New York airport in May 2000. A terrible rash covered her body, along with other signs of neglect. No one came to pick her up. Her mother, undocumented and scared, sent a note to immigration officials asking them to send Fega back to Nigeria. But her father in Nigeria said he did not want her back.
AI Justice met Fega when she appeared alone in Miami Immigration Court. Immigration had placed her in a local children’s shelter. AI Justice fought for her legal relief. Following a front page New York Times story about her plight, she was released to a relative in Connecticut after 15 months in detention.
Fega and her AI Justice attorney later attended a Senate hearing to call attention to the plight of children in immigration custody.
Javier and Dennis, twin brothers from Honduras, made their way to the border alone. Traveling mostly on foot, the boys ran out of food and water during their journey and were forced to drink water from contaminated streams. The brothers undertook this dangerous trip because it seemed their only chance of survival.
Abandoned by their parents and raised by violent and abusive relatives, the boys were not allowed to attend school. Instead they were forced to work in the fields. To escape regular and at times life-threatening beatings, the boys decided to escape. Apprehended by immigration officials in San Antonio, TX, they were detained in a children’s shelter in Miami. While there, AI Justice learned of their circumstances and intervened.
Collaborating with FIU’s Immigrant Children’s Justice Clinic, AI Justice succeeded in having the brothers declared dependent by the juvenile court. AI Justice then helped them petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and then to get them a green card.. Now Javier and Dennis are both legal permanent residents and on the path to U.S. citizenship.
When Rosa was age 12, her mother was shot to death in her native Guatemala. Her father, a drug addict, routinely abused her both physically and emotionally. Eventually he abandoned his children, leaving Rosa and her siblings to fend for themselves. Rosa’s older siblings then began to physically abuse her and lock her out of their home. With no one to protect her, Rosa was sexually abused and attempted to end her life. Thankfully, she found the strength to escape her situation.
At age 17, she traveled alone to the United States seeking safety, was apprehended by immigration authorities and placed in detention. AI Justice helped Rosa get Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, which is a special visa for abandoned, abused and neglected children. Rosa now is a lawful permanent resident of this country and went to live with relatives in another state.
When Oscar was a boy in Honduras, his parents operated a small computer repair shop and restaurant. The infamous MS-13 Gang ran rampant in the area, and they repeatedly extorted “protection” money from Oscar’s parents. What they paid was never enough. One day, the gang killed Oscar’s father. A few months later, Oscar and his mother watched in horror as gang members gunned down Oscar’s older brother. Not wanting his mother to lose another child, Oscar fled alone to the U.S.
His AI Justice attorney met him in a Miami immigration shelter and worked to have Oscar granted asylum. His adjustment application was approved and he is now a lawful permanent resident of the US. Now, safe for the first time in his life, Oscar dreams of one day working with computers, like his father.
Pierre is a 12 year old Haitian child. During his short life, Pierre experienced years of abuse and has been repeatedly abandoned. Shortly after his father’s death, his mother placed four-year-old Pierre and his sisters in an orphanage. The massive earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010 damaged the orphanage, and, as a result, Pierre was sent into the United States in an humanitarian effort. Though Pierre had not yet found adoptive parents, he was flown to the U.S. along with his sisters who were traveling to be united with the families that were in the process of adopting them.
Pierre was separated from his sisters who were united with their new families in other states. Nine-year-old Pierre was sent to a shelter in Miami. During the 3 years that he has been detained in the shelter, our Children’s Program team has represented Pierre in the long and arduous journey to obtain lawful immigration status and permanency. Now, little Pierre is finally a legal permanent. Pierre now hopes that someday he will find a family who can care for him and adopt him as their own. Whatever happens, he is secure in the knowledge that he has the opportunity to study and work in safety when he grows up.
Susana grew up in Guatemala. Her abusive father abandoned the family when Susana was four, and her mother left when Susana was five to seek work in the U.S. because the family was living in poverty. Raised by her grandparents, Susana’s difficult childhood became an even more traumatic adolescence. Violent gang members preyed on the community, and Susana was repeatedly raped by them. She made the treacherous journey to the U.S. to flee these continuing attacks.
AI Justice met Susana in the children’s immigration detention center. If she was returned to Guatemala, Susana’s life would be at risk because she had dared to flee her attackers. We were able to secure a juvenile visa for Susana due to the abuse she had suffered, and now she has begun to rebuild her shattered life.