Stories of Resilience
Overcoming Trauma To Impact The System
In 2017, Bryan and his mother were separated at the U.S. Mexico border under the Trump-era zero-tolerance policy. The two had come to the U.S. to seek asylum after cartels in Mexico kidnapped and murdered Bryan’s dad and uncle and demanded Bryan join their gang. Bryan and his mother were separated by the government during the zero-tolerance policy upon entering the United States. Bryan was 15 at the time of the separation. Bryan was sent to a youth shelter where he encountered ImmDef’s Detained Youth Empowerment team. Eventually, Bryan was reunited with his brother and he learned that his mother had been deported. Though Bryan faced great obstacles, he was inspired by his mother and invested great efforts in his schooling, graduating a year early and becoming fluent in English in less than three years. Thanks to ImmDef’s Children’s Representation Project, Bryan won his asylum case and now has a green card. Finally on May 4th, 2021, Bryan was reunited with his mother in an emotional reunion caught by The Today Show, MSNBC, Telemundo, and Good Morning America. Bryan was the first child to be reunited under the Biden Task Force for separated families. Bryan bravely used his voice and experience to speak with media and advocate for separated families. Despite all the trauma that the immigration system caused for him and his family, Bryan joined ImmDef’s Detained Youth Empowerment team and currently works at government shelters providing Know-Your-Rights training and screenings for unaccompanied youth.
Moving Forward Through Self-Empowerment
School and home life were not easy for Davis growing up. His classmates and teacher bullied him for the way he walked and talked. The teachers would try to “fix him”, demanding that he “walk and talk correctly”, and the students would beat him and call him names. As his family started to catch on to his sexual orientation, they rejected him. When one of Davis’ friends was killed for being gay, he realized that he needed to leave. “Some people are never going to be happy with who you are. They will always criticize you, even when you are being good. But you must keep moving forward. You have a right to be you, and no one has the right to discriminate against you.” Davis encountered ImmDef’s team when he was in a shelter and upon release continued to receive full representation to obtain legal relief and social services. Thanks to our team Davis won his asylum case based on well-founded fears of persecution in El Salvador due to his sexual orientation.
Persevering Against All Odds
Growing up amidst El Salvador’s gang wars, impoverished, and without parents, Gerson did not imagine that he would one day be admitted to one of the world’s most prestigious universities. At a young age Gerson traveled thousands of miles, evading violence, and enduring hunger and exhaustion to find safety in the U.S. In 2017, he arrived at the U.S. – Mexico border in Tijuana where he presented himself to ICE. Soon after Gerson’s arrival, ImmDef’s legal team began representing him and worked tirelessly to defend him against our unjust immigration policies. In April 2019, we succeeded in securing Gerson’s asylum status. Gerson drew upon his experience to raise awareness about issues affecting immigrant communities on a legislative visit in Washington D.C. with ImmDef’s Executive Director. The next year, Gerson was admitted to University of California Berkeley on a full-ride scholarship, just three years after he entered the United States. He shared, “When I got into UC Berkeley, I recognized all the elements- people, organizations, and experiences that contributed to that accomplishment. The desire for social justice is something that inspires me to help my community and therefore, the reason for my hard work. The feeling of knowing that I will be attending college with a full-ride scholarship after all the things that have happened is indescribable. Right now, I am beyond grateful and motivated to become someone who will contribute to our society and to the next generations. Beginnings are not always easy; it is up to us to define the journey that will determine our personal growth. I believe we all can achieve great things and create change regardless of where we come from.”
Zealous Advocacy Brings Justice
Wrongfully detained in an adult detention center while still a minor, Jose's case highlights the underlying injustices people are subjected to within the U.S. immigration court system. Jose fled from his birth country, Guatemala, after being shot and nearly killed. He arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border at age 17 to seek asylum. Immigration authorities claimed he was over 18 after performing a faulty dental test. He spent 888 days in Adelanto detention center, a facility that has been plagued with countless reports of abuse and mismanagement. Conditions at Adelanto caused Jose to develop serious health issues as a teenager, such as hypertension and depression which proved to be especially concerning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jose’s case brings to light the horrific systemic injustices that exist in the immigration court system, and the immense toll that they have on individuals seeking asylum, individuals who are already carrying so much pain to begin with. Our paralegal coordinator, Arlette Lozano, prevailed when she tracked down Jose’s birth certificate in Guatemala and by providing information that was instrumental in Jose’s eventual release.
Community Care Through Legal Relief
While living in El Salvador and working tirelessly to survive the poverty and violence brought on by the Salvadorian Civil War, Maura dreamed of becoming a doctor. She has always had a calling for helping to heal others, and though circumstances did not allow her to pursue her dream, she found other ways to help people. “Back there [El Salvador], we had no money for regular medicine. I needed to be efficient, getting the most effective remedies for the least amount of money, and that is how I got interested in alternative medicine. I read books and taught myself what I could. And I used that to help treat and prevent illness in others around me.” In early 2020, Maura and her family were granted a U-Visa due to a traumatic encounter with violence. Maura has spent so much of her life healing others, but her recovery taught her to heal herself, and now she feels strong and determined to pursue her dream. After representing her and winning her case, we helped Maura write a resume and cover letter. She hopes to land a job providing care for children, seniors, or folks with special needs so that she can advance on her path to become a wellness professional. She plans on saving up to go to school to become a naturopath or nurse. Maura, like most other people seeking asylum, is filled with compassion and yearns to contribute to society.
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