What Every Mother Wants
Like all mothers, Irma* wanted her daughter Sofia to be safe, secure, and happy. When Sofia was 5 years old, Irma brought her to the US from Mexico to get away from Irma’s alcoholic and abusive husband. Sofia had also been subjected to his physical abuse, and then his neglect and abandonment.
The purpose of the SIJ program is to help
foreign children in the United States who
have been abused, abandoned, or neglected in their home countries.
For 12 years, they found safety and refuge living with Sofia’s grandfather in the US. Sofia did well in school and lived an American life, but the mother always lived in fear of deportation. When Sofia was 17, Irma came out of the shadows to speak with an attorney about the possibility of immigration relief. She was surprised to learn that Sofia was eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status, a protection granted to abused, neglected, and abandoned children: this would allow Sofia to safely stay in the US.
But the clock was ticking. In two months, Sofia would be an adult and no longer qualify for this special immigration protection. Before then, her father would have to be served with, and sign, court documents so her case could proceed in family court—the first phase of the process. Complicating matters more, Irma believed that Sofia’s father lived in a notoriously dangerous area of Mexico controlled by organized crime. Realizing that timing and territory were against them, Sofia’s attorney contacted Justice in Motion for help.
Realizing that timing and territory were against them, Sofia’s attorney contacted Justice in Motion for help.
We immediately located a Defender who was familiar with the area and willing to make the dangerous trip. After travelling by bus for seven hours, she tracked down the notary to sign off on the document service.
Together, they went to find the father. Learning that he had left his last-known address, they tried to get information from neighbors. But no one was willing to divulge his whereabouts. The Defender then called an old telephone number someone had given her. The father’s new wife answered and arranged for him to meet with the Defender and the notary the next day. Ridden with guilt for his treatment of the family, the father quickly signed the documents.
Relieved and exhausted, with signed documents in hand, the Defender got on a bus headed for home. But several hours into the journey, the bus broke down in the mountains. After an endless wait for a second bus, the Defender finally arrived home and sent the documents to Sofia’s immigration attorney
The attorney immediately scheduled a hearing in family court, just days before Sofia aged out of the available protections. Now, under her mother’s sole custody, Sofia remains in safety while the case proceeds to the next phase where she waits for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status from federal immigration authorities.
If Sofia does not get SIJ status and faces removal proceedings, she will be returned to a Mexican state with extremely high levels of crime and major gang violence. Threats of kidnapping and extortion for those with US connections, like Sofia, are common practice.
The quick work and dedication of our Defender allowed Irma to keep fighting for her daughter’s safety and happiness. We wish them well.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals involved.