IJC would like to wish you and your loved ones a joyful holiday season and a Happy New Year! Thank you for all you do to help us provide safety and support to the immigrant community. Below, IJC’s Executive Director Jojo Annobil shares his thanks and a story of how your support directly helps us keep immigrant families together.
Each year, your generosity provides thousands of defenseless immigrant children, families, asylum seekers, and long-time residents with access to quality legal services needed to defend their rights and give them futures of opportunity.
We are proud to share one of their stories – a Honduran mother, a daughter she had been separated for more than a decade, and the IJC Justice Fellow who represented them. It’s a story of resiliency, perseverance, and the power of quality representation to bring transformative change to a young woman’s life. Were it not for our Fellow’s passionate advocacy, this family would have been separated indefinitely.
Maria fled Honduras for the United States over 15 years ago, leaving behind her very young daughter, Estella.* Maria applied for a “U visa,” a form of immigration relief available to noncitizens who are survivors of serious crimes. U visa holders can petition to add certain immediate family members, including children under 21.
Many legal service providers are forced to turn clients away due to capacity constraints, but our Fellows allow these organizations to take on cases they would otherwise be unable to handle. When Maria sought help petitioning her daughter at Volunteers of Legal Service, one of our partners in New York City, her case was assigned to IJC Fellow Emma Morgenstern.
Emma worked with Maria to complete and file a petition for Estella, which was delayed by COVID-19 and risked Estella aging out of eligibility. The government approved Maria’s petition in February 2022, a mere 23 days before Estella’s 21st birthday. This meant that Emma had to complete consular processing at the U.S Embassy and have Estella set foot on American soil before she turned 21 years old. Given that consular processing under normal circumstances can take upwards of six months, this felt like an insurmountable task.
“However, every advocate I spoke with about my case was ready to help reunite Maria and Estella,” Emma said.
With the help of an IJC Supervising attorney, Emma was able to break down what looked impossible into an achievable goal. Emma sought help from New York State’s Congressional staffers, officers at USCIS’s Kentucky Consular Center, staff at a non-profit dedicated to assisting attorneys and their U visa clients, and a consular officer abroad.
In March 2022, a week before Estella’s 21st birthday, Maria and Estella were reunited after nearly fifteen years.
Without quality counsel like Emma’s, the reunification of Maria and Estella would not have been possible. Thanks to visionary humanitarians like you, IJC Fellows protect and reunite families every day. Zealous representation and intentional capacity building allow IJC to meet the critical needs of immigrants. With your support, we can reunite many more families like Maria’s.
Thank you for all you do in helping Immigrant Justice Corps provide safety and support to immigrant children and adults.