Salvadoran woman fleeing violence who came to Sonoma County with her teenage son
“I am thankful to God and to the Secure Families Collaborative… I came having no knowledge of this new area and was thinking ‘how am I going to pay so much money for a lawyer?’. My lawyer told me not to worry, we will find a way you can win your case and you can have a better life for you and your son. And we won the case and I cannot thank the Collaborative enough for how much they’ve changed my life.”
Two Sonoma residents finally feel secure in the country they have called home for more than 20 years
The couple immigrated to the United States from Mexico two decades ago in search of a better life. They settled in Sonoma County, where they began their family and raised their three children.
With the help of IIBA’s nonprofit legal services, the couple are now Green Card holders, and are on the path to United States Citizenship.
When sharing their story, they say they could not have afforded the high price of a private immigration law firm. They are grateful a nonprofit organization like IIBA exists in Sonoma to make sure all families have access to quality, affordable immigration legal services.
“We are very grateful to IIBA. Our attorney was always available to answer any questions we had and to give us reliable information.
During the pandemic, even though a lot of places closed down, we were still able to move forward with our immigration process thanks to IIBA being able to serve us remotely. Now, we feel more secure and have more stability as permanent residents.”
U-visa Client feels safe once again to be able to work and help her family while continuing to achieve her academic goals
A recent U-visa client was born and raised in a small village in Chiapas, Mexico. When she was 17 years old, her parents brought her to the U.S. She and her family made the hard and dangerous journey crossing the south border.
Being her dream to go to college, she immediately began attending evening classes at the Santa Rosa Junior College to increase her English speaking skills. With time and dedication, she hoped to obtain an Associate Degree and move into a Bachelors Program. Not forgetting her family, at the age of 18 years old, she started to work. Being able to help her family financially was important for her. She also needed to support herself.
After 8 months of working at her new job, her supervisor started to harass her. She had heard from other female co-workers her supervisor had a long history of mistreating female workers. After several incidents where she rejected his approaches, the supervisor began to threaten her with reducing her work hours, and switching her to the night shift if she did not comply with his demands.
She pleaded with her supervisor to stop his advances, yet the harassment and threats continued. She knew she had to report him, but she was scared that no one would believe her and she would be fired or worst deported. Her abuser was well liked by the owners of the company and had had a close relationship with them for a year, and none of the other victims had reported the harassment.
The situation only escalated. After an incident she told her abuser that she was going to report him if she did not leave her alone. This angered the supervisor and he threatened to hurt her family if she reported him, as he knew where she and her family lived.
Days after this event, her beloved family dog disappeared from their home. Despite searching everywhere and even posting reward signs in town, she never saw her beloved dog again. She had no doubt her abuser was involved.
After her dog’s incident, she was terrified and began to suffer from anxiety and depression. She decided to see a psychologist to treat her symptoms. After sharing her story, the psychologist suggested for her to report the abuse to law enforcement.
While still terrified and feeling intimidated due to her limited English, she found the courage to report her abuser to law enforcement. An officer took her statement and filed a report. Feeling support, she found the courage once again and reported the abuse to her company HR Department. Her abuser was immediately separated from his duties and was eventually fired.
Her psychologist talked to her about the possibility of applying for an immigration benefit since she had cooperated with law enforcement for the investigation. She said that she knew about it, but she did not have financial resources to pay for this legal service. The psychologist recommended the Immigration Department at Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa. She scheduled an appointment and was seen right away.
Arriving at Catholic Charities, she began to feel anxious as she had when she went to law enforcement as she know she would have to remember many details again. It was difficult. Little by little, and through the support provided by the Immigration Representative, she felt comfortable. She felt she could trust her Immigration Representative.
In time, she received her work permit and her life was completely transformed. She felt safe once again to be able to work and help her family while continuing to achieve her academic goals. She is hoping to share her story to other women who have been victims of a crime so that they know they are not alone; “Don’t be afraid of people with bad intentions. Report them. No one can manipulate you. You own your life. You are the one who can make a change in your life and in this society. Reach out for help to those who truly are there to help our community, like Catholic Charities.”