In April 2010, the Leyvas—grandfather Santos, father Lenin and son Yuriel—left Havana for Dallas, where they were greeted at DFW airport by International Rescue Committee (IRC) case worker Daley Ryan.
“The IRC received us with open arms,” says Yuriel Leyva. “Daley picked us up at the baggage claim, and he had the apartment ready with everything we needed.” IRC case worker Daley, who speaks Spanish, took the Leyvas to their new home. He regularly met with them there and at the IRC office in Dallas to check on their transition and to provide guidance as they begin new lives in the United States.
IRC case workers conduct home visits soon after a family’s arrival to ensure safety and well being, help them apply for Social Security cards and government identification, refer them to English-language classes and provide orientation about living in their new community.
“It’s been helpful that both English and Spanish are spoken in many parts of Dallas,” says Lenin of adjusting to life in the city. “Our main goal is to learn English, and to become U.S. citizens. We go to the library and read books to prepare.”
As families like the Leyvas work toward American citizenship, the IRC in Dallas and Abilene offer culturally appropriate, quality, low-cost immigration services. IRC Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)-accredited immigration specialists in Dallas and Abilene meet with refugee families to ensure that refugees receive appropriate guidance and support in completing applications to become permanent residents and then citizens of the United States.
As the Leyvas consider the future, they hope to one day establish their own carpentry business in Dallas, drawing from their years of experience in woodwork and homebuilding in Cuba.