THE COMMUNITIES WE SERVE
The SFILDC serves a diverse immigrant population. Many of our clients are fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries and have recently arrived to the United States. Others have lived many years in the United States and have family members who have different immigration status. Here are some of their stories. Their stories reveal the violence and abuse they are fleeing, the challenges they have faced in finding safety in the United States, their struggle navigating the US legal system, their courage and resilience, and the positive impact of legal representation on their lives. All names have been changed.
Jane grew up in Sierra Leone. After Jane’s parents died, she was sent to live with extended family members who subjected her to female genital mutilation (FGM), with the justification that they were preparing her for marriage. Afterwards, Jane received no medical treatment, so she never properly healed. Because Jane had no other family in Sierra Leone, she was forced to continue living at her aunt and uncle’s house, where she suffered additional sexual abuse at the hands of a cousin. Soon her aunt introduced her to her soon-to-be husband: a man twice her age with multiple wives. Rather than be forced into marriage and subject to additional abuse, Jane embarked on a treacherous journey to the United States to seek asylum. Once in the United States, Jane was immediately detained and remained so throughout her removal proceedings. The African Advocacy Network agreed to represent Jane and helped her to obtain asylum. Jane now lives safely with her family in the U.S. and will soon be undergoing FGM reconstructive surgery.
Raymond immigrated to San Francisco from the Philippines as a permanent resident when he was a teenager. Starting from the time he was a young man, Raymond struggled with substance abuse. He cycled through periods of sobriety and relapse. As a result, Raymond was arrested and convicted of drug possession several times. For 30 years, Raymond lived in San Francisco where he worked and raised his three children with his wife. In 2017, ICE arrested Raymond and detained him. Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus won a second chance for Raymond, obtaining his release and the opportunity to stay with his family.
Mario is a young boy from Mexico. His father was an abusive alcoholic who brutally beat Mario and the rest of his family. When Mario was 7, his family escaped his father’s abuse, but a year later, Mario’s mother abandoned him, leaving Mario with a sister who also abused him. Mario fled to the United States in February 2015. With Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach's help, Mario obtained guardianship and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status findings in San Francisco Probate Court. He was granted lawful permanent residency in December 2015.
Two young brothers, Walter and William, lived in Guatemala before coming to the U.S. Gangs began targeting them for recruitment, so they fled in fear for their lives. Upon their arrival int he U.S., they were placed in removal proceedings. In July 2014, 10 days before their first hearing, Walter and William arrived in the office of Dolores Street Community Services seeking representation. DSCS attorneys worked diligently with Walter and William and their family here and in Guatemala to help them to apply for asylum and gather proof for the claim. Both brothers were granted asylum, and Walter was shared his story before City Hall that summer, moving many Supervisors and the public to support SFILDC.
In Guatemala, Ella suffered because her father physically, verbally, and emotionally abused her throughout her life. Ella fled the aBUSE at the age of 17, but on her journey to the U.S., she had the misfortune of experiencing further violence. When she arrived, Ella was detained for a month and a half before being released to her uncle. Ella and her uncle sought help at Central American Resource Center which was able to represent her in her immigration proceedings. Because of her attorney’s advocacy, Ella’s uncle was named as her legal guardian and she was granted Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and permanent residence.
Mateo is a young Salvadoran boy who suffered extreme abuse and trauma in his home country. Mateo was conceived as a result of a violent rape, so he never had a relationship with his biological father. When Mateo was young, his mother came to the U.S. to earn money to support him, leaving Mateo to live with his extended family who kicked Mateo out when he was 10 years old. Mateo went to live with an aunt, but he didn’t receive better treatment. His aunt stole the money that Mateo''s mother sent to him. An older cousin physically abused Mateo, and a neighbor sexually abused him. Mateo fled El Salvador and reunited with his mother in the U.S. Upon Mateo’s arrival, he began feeling the effects of his childhood trauma and was hospitalized four times in nine months for psychiatric and emergency medical care. The Immigration Center for Children and Women agreed to represent Mateo. ICWC helped Mateo to obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and helped to connect him to mental health services through a collaboration between social workers at his school, doctors at UCSF and case workers at Instituto Familiar de la Raza. His application for residency is pending.
Josselyn is a tenacious young Guatemalan girl whose parents abandoned her by the time she was two. Josselyn then lived with her elderly grandparent who abused her and forced her to cook, clean and serve as the grandparent’s caregiver. As her grandparent grew more infirm, Josselyn became afraid for her own survival, so she embarked on the journey to find her birth mother after 14 years without contact. Unfortunately, Josselyn’s mother rejected her. With nowhere else to go, Josselyn fled to the United States. However, when she arrived, Josselyn was placed in custody where she remained for over four months. Finally, Josselyn was released to a relative in San Francisco, and she sought help from SFILDC for representation in her removal proceedings. Kids In Need of Defense accepted her case and obtained a legal guardianship for Josselin and an SIJS predicate order. Josselin is now on her way to securing permanent status in the U.S. She is grateful to be attending high school in San Francisco, where she receives all A’s and B’s. For the first time, Josselin is able to focus on a future with possibilities and opportunities for herself.
Jon and Rosa are fourteen year-old twins from El Salvador. When Jon and Rosa’s mother moved to the U.S. to earn money, she left them in the care of their older siblings. The gangs targeted Jon and Rosa’s family; they threatened Jon and Rosa because they attended church and beat their older brothers. Jon managed to survive the treacherous journey to the U.S. completely alone and began living with his mother. One of Jon and Rosa’s older brothers also embarked on the journey, but he disappeared and was not heard from again. Several months after Jon’s arrival in the U.S., Jon and Rosa's mother got another horrific call that her oldest son had been murdered. Rosa was being harassed by a gang member who wanted to date her. When Jon and Rosa’s eldest brother stepped forward to stop the gang member, the gang murdered him in front of his home with his wife and newborn baby present. Rosa fled El Salvador with their remaining siblings. With the help of La Raza Centro Legal, the twins have been granted asylum. The remaining adult siblings were initially detained and separated in Texas and Georgia, but they have now been released and reunited with the rest of the family in San Francisco. La Raza Centro Legal represents all of the remaining family members in their pending cases before the San Francisco Immigration Court.
Maria is a single mother of three young children who came to the U.S. seeking asylum. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), forced Maria to wear an ankle shackle for nearly eight months as part of the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP), touted as an alternative to detention. Maria traveled weekly to San Francisco ICE and ISAP offices, was present in her home when ICE called, and allowed ICE to enter her home for visits, but ICE continued to force her to wear the ankle shackle. Maria sought help from La Raza Community Resource Center for the removal of the shackle. Maria’s attorney made repeated requests and inquiries to ISAP and ICE officers, but ICE refused to remove Maria’s shackle. Maria’s ICE Deportation Officer informed Maria and her attorney that her request was denied because Maria had allegedly missed a check-in appointment and a home visit. However, Maria and her attorney provided proof that Maria had complied with all of the check-in requirements and convinced the officer to check the GPS monitor for the day in question. After seeing the proof of Maria’s compliance, the ICE Officer finally agreed to remove Maria’s ankle shackle.
In Guatemala, Juana’s father abused her, forced her to work, and forbid her from attending school, so she traveled to the U.S. at the age of 16. Legal Services for Children agreed to represent Juana and helped her obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and Permanent Residency. LSC also helped Juana advocate to continue her education in face of family pressure to leave school and work. Juana is now living with an older sibling in San Francisco and attends high school. She is doing extremely well in her classes and is looking forward to receiving her High School Diploma.
Alma is a 16-year-old girl from El Salvador whose father physically abused her. Ella escaped the abuse and came to the U.S. to seek safety, but she was placed in deportation proceedings upon her arrival. Pangea Legal Services helped Alma apply for asylum and win her case. Since she received legal status, Alma has begun to participate in school and has joined the soccer team.
The University of San Francisco's Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic represents Elio, 16-year old from Guatemala who lives with his older brother in San Francisco. Elio's father was murdered in Guatemala and his step-father abused him. Elio’s mother would not leave his stepfather, and he had no other family in Guatemala, so he left and came to the U.S. With the help of USF, Elio received a state court order and is in the process of applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and permanent residency.