Written by Laura Brown, Program Manager
Five years ago, Maria* was a 26-year-old single mother of two living in Honduras. Maria’s brother was a police officer in Honduras who investigated drug crimes; when he tried to arrest a group of drug traffickers, he was murdered. When the drug traffickers then threatened to kill Maria, she fled the country, leaving her children in the care of her mother.
Maria crossed the U.S. southern border near Hidalgo, Texas where she was detained by U.S. immigration officials. After three months in detention, Maria was released on bond and allowed to travel to Baltimore, where one of her relatives lived. Maria applied for asylum with the assistance of a private attorney, and in 2017, the immigration court in Baltimore granted her request for asylum.
Individuals with asylum status can petition for their minor children to join them in the U.S. The process is long and complicated, but Maria was determined to reunite with her children. She approached her attorney for assistance, and was devastated to learn that he would charge her more than $3,000 for the service.
Maria had already spent her life savings on attorney fees for her asylum application, and she sent the majority of her income from cleaning houses back to Honduras to support her sons. Since arriving in the U.S., Maria had also fallen in love and married a man from El Salvador, and she’d given birth to her third child. She asked her attorney for time to raise the funds, while also looking for other options.
Maria is like many individuals who find the International Rescue Committee (IRC) when looking for organizations that provide assistance to refugees and immigrants. She contacted the IRC in Baltimore to request case management services and legal assistance. Maria was assigned an IRC case manager who helped her to apply for public benefits, including health insurance, and enroll in English classes. Her case manager also connected her to the immigration legal services program at the IRC.
In January 2018, an IRC immigration specialist helped Maria submit petitions to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for her two sons to join her in Baltimore. The petitions processed quickly, and the children attended interviews at the U.S. Embassy in Honduras in December 2018. The embassy approved the petitions, and the boys were issued visas to the U.S.
Maria’s sons arrived in Baltimore in May 2019, and were greeted at the airport by their tearful mother. Soon after arrival, the children were assigned IRC case managers who helped them to apply for public benefits and enroll in school. Meanwhile, earlier this year Maria was able to apply for and obtain her green card with assistance from the IRC immigration legal services program.
*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.
To read more about how the IRC assists clients with immigration legal services, read Together again after 17 years.
Individuals interested in requesting immigration legal services can fill out our appointment request form.