April Palma is completing her first year of working as an immigration attorney with Justice for Our Neighbors here in Iowa. She was hired to carry on a fledgling program that reaches out to the children and teens who have come to Iowa from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. This program was begun in the summer of 2014 when a hotline was established. The obvious need dictated that JFON, as a Matthew 25 Ministry should become more involved. Here is one of the reasons why we are glad that we did. Please read this story shared by April and pray for these young people and their often desperate families. In the period from October 2015, and February 2016, one hundred more minors have arrived in Iowa. The need for this program continues to this moment.
JFON unaccompanied minor program (UAC) helps brave little girl
Since the start of the unaccompanied minor (UAC) program of Justice for Our Neighbors in March of 2015, Stacey is the first UAC to get all the way through the process and become a Legal Permanent Resident. Stacey is only 12 years old; she is from a very impoverished and dangerous region of Guatemala.
Stacey’s mother came to the United States back in 2005, fleeing domestic violence and trying to make a better life for herself and provide support for her daughter. Stacey stayed behind with her grandmother and was abandoned by her father as soon as her mother left for the US. Over the years, the political and economic situation in Guatemala worsened and by 2014 Stacey was too scared to even go to school.
In August of 2014, at only 10 years old, Stacey’s mother and grandmother paid a coyote to transport her to the US. It was the first time Stacey had ever left her village and she was scared.
The journey to the US was a long and terrifying one; she was surrounded by strangers and most nights slept on the floor in a room with 15-20 other people. Stacey remembers going to bed many nights hungry and cold. At one point during the journey, her backpack with the few possessions she owned and the little money she brought was stolen.
Luckily after 3 grueling weeks, Stacey arrived at the Southern Border physically unharmed. Stacey was detained at the border and transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
After spending a few weeks in an ORR shelter, Stacey was released to her mother in Ottumwa, IA. Her mother called Iowa JFON’s UAC hotline in November of 2014 and after an initial screening was flagged as being eligible to apply for SIJS. The law firm of Harrison & Dietz-Kilen P.L.C. assisted with getting her guardianship order pro bono.
Once the guardianship order was in place, Iowa JFON submitted an SIJS application which was approved. With Stacey’s SIJS application approved Iowa JFON was able to terminate her deportation proceedings and assist her in applying for legal permanent residency. In December 2015, we found out that Stacey had been granted legal permanent residency and would be able to remain in the US safely.
Her mother and Stacey were overjoyed and grateful for JFONs help.