THE POPULATIONS WE SERVE
The SFILDC serves a diverse immigrant population, many of our clients are fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries, others have started their lives in the United States but still suffer the hardships of navigating the immigration legal system without representation. Here are some of their stories. Only through their stories we can truly understand the violence and abuse these people 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 is a female from Sierra Leone. After losing both her parents, Jane relocated to another city to live with extended family. There, she endured extreme persecution at the hands of her aunt, uncle, and elders of her tribe. In attempts to prepare her for marriage, she was drugged and forced to undergo female genital mutilation against her many protests. She described the pain as "the most sharp, raw pain" she has ever felt. Following this procedure, no medical treatments were provided and Jane never properly healed. With no other place to live, she was forced to continue living at her aunt and uncle’s house, where her cousin would repeatedly rape her following her procedure. A few months after the procedure, Jane's aunt introduced her to her soon to be a husband: a man twice her age with multiple wives. At this point, Jane knew she had to leave and 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 entire proceedings. With the assistance of The African Advocacy Network, she was granted asylum. Jane now lives safely with her family 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. Since he was a young man, Raymond struggled with substance abuse cycling through periods of sobriety and relapse resulting in convictions for simple possession of drugs. For the past three decades, he lived in the Excelsior neighborhood where he worked, and where he raised his three children with his wife. In 2017, Raymond was arrested at an immigration appointment and detained in the Yuba County Jail. Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus won a second chance for Raymond, granting him freedom and the opportunity to stay with his family.
Mario is a 17-year-old from Mexico. His father was an abusive alcoholic who brutally beat his family. When Mario was 7, his family escaped from his father and a year later his mother abandoned Mario, leaving him with his abusive sister. Mario fled to the United States as an unaccompanied minor in February 2015. With Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach's help, he obtained guardianship and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status findings in San Francisco Probate Court. He was granted lawful permanent residency in December 2015.
Central American Resource Center was successful in obtaining protection for Ella, a 17-year-old Guatemalan girl. Her father physically, verbally, and emotionally abused her throughout her life. She finally fled to the United States at the age of 17, and experienced tragic violence on that dangerous journey. Upon entry into the United States, Ella was detained for a month and a half before being released to her uncle who was able to serve as her guardian. She has now been granted Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and permanent residence.
In July 2014, two young brothers, Walter and William, arrived in the office of Dolores Street Community Services seeking representation after receiving a notice to appear before an Immigration Judge in 10 days. They both had fled gang recruitment in Guatemala. Walter was strong enough to share his story before City Hall that summer, moving many Supervisors and the public to support SFILDC. DSCS attorneys worked diligently with the family here as well as family members still in Guatemala to document and corroborate the children's claim. Both brothers have now been granted asylum.
John, a 14 year old Salvadoran boy suffered extreme abuse and trauma before coming to the United States. John was conceived as a result of a violent rape and has never known his biological father. At the age of 10, a family member threw him out of the home and told him he did not belong there because he was not a blood relation. John was forced to live with an aunt who spent the money that John's mother sent from the United States on herself and her family. He was subjected to physical abuse by an older cousin and was sexually abused by a neighbor. John has been hospitalized four times in the last nine months for psychiatric and emergency medical care. The Immigration Center for Children and Women helped John obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and his application for his permanent residency is pending. He is currently receiving mental health services through a collaboration between social workers at his school, doctors at UCSF and case workers at Instituto Familiar de la Raza.
Under the SFILDC grant, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) represents a tenacious young Guatemalan girl, who was abandoned by both parents in her home country by the time she was two. Raised by an elderly grandparent who was physically abusive, she had to cook, clean and care for her grandparent when she was only 10 years old. As her grandparent grew more infirm, the girl, afraid for her own survival, located her mother in a third country after 14 years without contact. The long-anticipated reunion did not go as planned, and the child was rejected a second time by her birth mother. With nowhere else to go, she fled to the United States where she remained in ORR custody for over four months while locating a family member to sponsor her. Finally she was placed with a relative in San Francisco, where she came into contact with SFILDC. KIND accepted her case and was able to obtain a legal guardianship for this minor and an SIJS predicate order. She 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, this young girl is able to focus on a future with possibilities and opportunities for herself.
Jon and Rosa are fourteen year-old twins from El Salvador who were taken care of by their older siblings after their mother moved to the U.S. to find work. On their own, the Maras threatened them for going to church and beat up their older brothers. Jon managed to escape to the U.S. completely alone, without a single adult accompanying him on the treacherous journey. One of the older brothers also fled but was never heard from again. Several months later, Jon and Rosa's mother got another horrific call. Her eldest son had been murdered by the Maras while defending Rosa, who had been harassed by a gang member wanting to date her. When her brother stepped forward to defend Rosa, he was viciously murdered in front of his home with his wife and newborn baby present. Rosa fled El Salvador with the remaining siblings. With the help of La Raza Centro Legal, both twins have been granted asylum by the Asylum Office. The remaining adult siblings were initially detained and separated in Texas and Georgia, but have now been released and reunited with the rest of the family in San Francisco. La Raza Centro Legal now represents all of the remaining family members in their pending cases before the San Francisco Immigration Court.
Maria is an asylum seeker and a single mother of three young children. As part of an Alternatives to Detention program known as the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP) run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Maria wore an ankle shackle for nearly eight months. In addition, she also complied with burdensome supervision requirements, involving weekly visits to San Francisco ICE and ISAP offices, telephonic monitoring and home visits. Yet, even after complying for so long, Maria's release from ankle monitoring was needlessly delayed for a month and a half more. Maria and her attorney at La Raza Community Resource Center made repeated requests and inquiries to ISAP and ICE officers to remove her ankle shackle to no avail. Her attorney was finally able to secure a meeting with her ICE Deportation Officer, where she was informed that Maria's release request was denied because Maria had allegedly missed a check-in appointment and a home visit. The next week, Maria and her attorney returned to ICE with proof that Maria had been to her check-in on the disputed day. Her attorney also convinced the ICE officer to check GPS data from the electronic ankle monitor to confirm that Maria had been at home on the day she was accused of missing a home visit. Her ankle monitor was finally removed later that day.
Legal Services for Children successfully represented Juana, a Guatemalan girl who entered United States when she was 16 years old. Juana had been severely abused by her father, who also forced her to work and forbid her from attending school once she turned 12 years old. LSC helped Juana obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and Permanent Residency. Juana is now living with an older sibling in San Francisco and is in the 10th grade at a San Francisco high school. She is doing extremely well in her classes and is looking forward to her High School Diploma. LSC also helped Juana advocate with her family here to continue her education in face of pressure to work and give up on school.
Alma is a 16-year-old girl from El Salvador who was beaten up every week by her father. Sometimes he hit her so hard with his belt that her back started bleeding. Alma was able to escape her father’s abuse and come to the U.S., but she was put into deportation proceedings. Pangea Legal Services helped her apply for asylum and win her case. Ever since getting her papers, Alma has been able to focus better in school, and she has more time and energy to participate in her school’s 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 was extremely abusive towards him; his mother would not separate from this man so he felt his only option was to leave the country, having no other family in Guatemala. With the help of USF, Elio received a state order and is in the process of applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and permanent residency.