© Copyright 2020. Center for Legal Immigration Assistance
Anet personifies courage, perseverance and hard work. Born in Mexico, her parents brought her to the U.S. when she was less than a year old and they settled in Illinois.
She experienced a number of difficulties growing up and as a young woman experienced the trauma of domestic violence. Her loving foster family, who had worked with CLIA to obtain a green card, suggested that she contact CLIA for help. There she learned that Congress had created a visa called a U visa for victims of domestic violence in order to encourage the arrest and potential conviction of the perpetrators.
Anet had helped law enforcement successfully prosecute the crime against her and they agreed to cooperate with her to attain a U visa.
That was the first of many steps to be approved for a U visa. Numerous pieces of documentation were gathered to accompany the 25-pages of forms, including a detailed statement describing the trauma and the long and short-term effects suffered by the victim, certified statements from the police department and/or the county attorney, and letters of support from employers, teachers, therapists.
She and CLIA staff worked with the Lincoln Police Department’s Victim and Witness Unit to obtain police statements. Anet secured letters of support from employers (she had been working since she was 15), teachers, therapists, her pastor. After more than 20 hours of legal work, CLIA submitted the application package to the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Service).
When Anet’s application was submitted the average wait for a first response was about 1 year. (Now the wait time averages 2.5 years.)
After one year, the USCIS responded with questions, requesting one more statement from the police, which Anet was able to obtain in about one month, a quick turn-around. The information was returned to the USCIS and about one month later, the visa was approved, visa, qualifying her to obtain an Employment Authorization Document, the coveted ‘work card’ which allowed her to work in the US legally for 4 years.
After 3 years the U Visa recipient is allowed to apply for a Green Card. Déjà vu.
The application process is remarkably similar: a lengthy form, accompanied by letters of support from employers, teachers, pastors. Health documentation, current vaccinations. Fingerprinting. Criminal background checks. And month by month documentation that the applicant has been in continuous US residence for the past three years.
The application fee is $1225. Anet filed a fee waiver and submitted all the documentation proving her income was less than 150% of the poverty level. The paper piled higher. Finally, the total package was submitted.
Six weeks later, good news: the fee waiver was granted. Then another 12 months wait. During this time her original work card, good for four years would expire, so yet another renewal application was submitted.
Three months ago, six years after this journey began, Max received the news: Anet’s green card was approved. He had the pleasure of telling her, seeing her glowing face when she came to the office to get it. At last.
Anet can breathe easy now. Or can she? Indeed, compared to the first 25 years of her life in the US, her situation is vastly improved. But the anxiety is only partially relieved. The national conversation and controversy around immigration have only heightened the fears of Anet and persons like her. What may change next? Will renewal requirements be stiffened? Will the pathway to citizenship remain open? Unanswerable questions remain.
Anet is deeply grateful to be where she is, looking ahead to continued employment at a physicians’ practice, raising her five-year-old daughter Ayva, thinking about nursing school in the future. In five years she can apply for US citizenship. She says she could only have done this with the support of her foster family, her church, and CLIA.
And she prays that others will be so fortunate.
Martha and Jane (Myanmar)
My husband was presumed dead and I found myself pregnant and alone. I gave birth to my daughter, Jane, alone and afraid. The birth was traumatic without my husband or proper medical care, but thankfully, Jane was born healthy and strong.
When Jane turned one years old, I was able to reconnect with my family in Thailand. My uncle agreed to take care of Jane so that I could find out what happened to my husband. I made the most difficult decision of my life and left Jane behind with her uncle. Because traveling was very dangerous, it would have been impossible with a child, but I needed to find out what happened to my husband and I thought I would be back soon. Leaving Jane was the hardest thing I had to do.
Two years after I left my daughter with her uncle, I finally found my husband. Thank God, he was not dead. We were so happy to be reunited and my husband was so excited to meet Jane. However, the conditions of the country became worse. War broke out around us, making traveling impossible and dangerous. My husband and I could not go to our daughter, so we worked hard to send money to my uncle to help take care of her. Every day we tried to figure out how to get her safely in our arms. And every day, we worked hard to save the little money we earned. We were working morning to night, but the pay was not good and sometimes we didn’t even get paid. We were desperate to be reunited with Jane, but didn’t know how.
We continued to work hard and tried to save little by little. The hope of being with Jane was the only thing that motivated me to wake up everyday. However, my hope was dwindling day by day, I did not know how much longer I could go on, but then as if a gift from God, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (“UNCHR”) offered us an opportunity to go to the United States as a refugee. The process was long and confusing, but we completed the process. After many years, we were admitted into a refugee camp and during our time in the refugee camp, we continued to send the little money that we could make to Jane.
After seven years of living in the refugee camp, we were admitted into the United States. The first two years were rough adjusting to a different country, but we were so grateful to be here. Although we did not know the language, we could learn. At least there was no war around us, it was so peaceful. It was difficult finding a job with my limited English, but after slowly getting accustomed to the new environment and meeting people in the community, I finally found a stable job and was able to start sending money to my Jane. We had been in continuous contact with Jane and tried to communicate with her as often as we could. It had been so long since I had seen her in person. She was not a baby anymore. If I had known I would have been separated from her for so long, I would have never left. My daughter had to grow up without her mother. I regret everyday for leaving her behind, but I still held on to the hope of seeing her again and embracing her in my arms.
However, this was just a dream and I had no idea how to realize it. That was until I heard about CLIA. All my hopes and dreams were in sight thanks to the hard work of the people at CLIA. I could not afford a lawyer, but through their pro-bono help, I was able to apply for my daughter and bring her home to me. It had been 19 years since I left her with her uncle, but she is still my baby. When she walked down the airport terminal, I felt such relief. I felt like I could breathe again. My family was together.
Chinese citizens Kim and Han had two children, and Kim was pregnant with their third. They publicly opposed China’s “One-Child” policy, which prohibits a couple from having more than one child. One night while they were asleep, Chinese police officers stormed into their home and arrested them. When they resisted, the officers beat them, tied Kim up, and took her to an abortion clinic. She begged and pleaded them not to harm her unborn child, but they performed the abortion against her will. Only one year later, Kim and Han were beaten and arrested again, and police forced Kim to have a reproductive device surgically implanted. Kim and Han knew they could not stay in China.
Six years ago, Kim wept as the airplane carrying her and her family touched down in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was the first time she had felt safe for many years. Kim, Han, and their two children had come to Lincoln on Han’s student visa, but memories of the persecution and violence they had experienced at the hands of the Chinese government still haunted Kim.
Finding safety in Lincoln, Kim knew that China would never be a safe home for her family. If they returned, they would be subjected to the same persecution as before, solely because of their two children. Also, Kim feared for the life of their daughter, Katie, a bright, active 9-year-old with her father’s smile. The Chinese government considers the second child in a family to be illegal. As an “illegal” living in China, Katie would never be allowed to marry, get a good job, or travel. Even worse, girls who are second children in China often disappear into the sex trade.
Kim was determined to seek asylum in the United States. She knew she needed legal assistance from someone with a thorough knowledge of asylum case law. Han’s student visa allowed him only part-time work and prevented Kim from working at all. They barely had enough money to pay for necessities and could not afford an attorney. Kim turned to CLIA, the Center for Legal Immigration Assistance, for affordable legal service and for the expertise in asylum law crucial to her case.
With the help of CLIA’s consulting attorney and an intern from the UNL College of Law, CLIA won asylum for Kim and her family. They received work authorization and lawful permanent residency. They are now able to remain in this country without fear of being forced to return to China. They would be able to protect and cherish their children without further persecution. Even more important, Katie is safe from violence and will grow up with legal rights and opportunities. Kim credits CLIA with saving Katie’s life.
y name is Faith and I am from an African nation. My husband came to the United States first, and three years later my two children and I joined him here in Nebraska. We were excited to see him after being apart for several years, but my excitement vanished when I arrived and he continued with the violence and abuse that I suffered in Africa. I thought the separation would make the relationship peaceful and meaningful when we reunited. Instead, the abuse got worse. I was subjected to intense verbal, emotional, sexual, physical, and financial abuse as well as continuous threats upon my life. It left me in a state of terror, hopelessness, sleepless nights, depression, and endless worrying about if I would make it to the next day alive. I lost meaning and purpose in my marriage as well as my self-esteem. Our house became the most terrifying place for me, yet home should always be the safest place for anyone. I could not take it anymore and after he threatened me with a knife, I decided to flee to a shelter for battered women and children.
Because I was dependent on him for my visa, I could not work, drive a car, or have any legal papers. Going back to him was not an option. I knew it was better to have nothing than to be killed.
Finding Center for Legal Immigration Assistance was a blessing. I don’t know what I would have done without their help. I was in a new country, I didn’t know the laws or how the system works, and I had no family support, employment papers, or income. I can’t imagine filling out and processing all of the paperwork myself. I came here hopeless, but found an organization that fights for people who don’t know where to go to get help.
The team at CLIA stood up for me when I couldn’t stand up for myself, spoke for me when I couldn’t speak, and they defended me when I was defenseless. They shared my shame, disgrace, and pain by working so hard and closely following my case to ensure that I got the help I needed to get back on my feet. I will never forget their commitment, kindness, passion, love, and assurance that they would do whatever they could to help me. It gave me hope to know that they cared and were willing to work on my case even when I had nothing to offer. At CLIA there is hope. Every time I walked into the building I knew that someone cared and someone was helping us. They are devoted, passionate, and what they do is truly amazing. CLIA opened a door for me that I never dreamed of nor imagined was possible.
My life has changed dramatically since coming to CLIA for help. I now have a work card and am able to work, get a driver’s license, have a home, and take care of my family’s basic needs. I used to be worried and stressed, but a huge burden was lifted off of my shoulders knowing that I am in the U.S. legally. My children go to school and one day I would like to go back to school to be able to help others and impact their lives positively like CLIA has done in my life.