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A Mother’s Love Gains Daughter Safety and Status

May 08, 2024
  • Individual Immigration
  • News

By Kasey Husk

At Eagan Immigration, we know every immigrant has their own reason for choosing to leave their country of origin. Some are fleeing violence or poverty, some want to seek more educational opportunities or reunite with other family members who have gone before them. Yet far and away the most common reason we hear at Eagan Immigration is not that our clients want these things for themselves. It’s that they want opportunities and safety and security for their beloved children.

In the month of May, many nations take the opportunity to celebrate mothers. In much of Latin America, the Día de las Madres is celebrated on May 10 every year. In the United States, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of each month; in 2024, Mother’s Day is May 12. With this in mind, Eagan Immigration would like to celebrate one of our clients, whose determination and courage allowed her to daughter to escape the danger she faced in her native Colombia.

*Names and some details have been changed to protect our clients’ privacy.

Valentina’s Story

“Valentina,” a native of Colombia, could not have been happier when her firstborn child was placed in her arms in 2006. She knew she would do everything in her power to give the little girl she christened “Carolina” the best life possible, and she believed her child’s father felt the same. Unfortunately, however, Valentina’s father thought different. Within only a few years of Carolina’s birth, he abandoned the family and refused to support his child.

Valentina was already struggling to support her child with the help of family members, when war came to the family’s doorstep. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (“FARC”) was a group of guerrilla revolutionaries who financed their decades-long battle against the Colombian government through tactics like kidnapping, extortion and drug trafficking.

These fighters came to Valetina’s home and began demanding “rents” from her and her family. Valentina did not have the money to pay, and time was running out. She was terrified Carolina would be kidnapped to force her hand, or else killed to punish her for her failure to comply. Left with no other options, Valentina did the only thing she could: she fled.

She and Carolina arrived in the United States in 2016, where they joined other family members who fled for the same reasons. Valentina breathed a sigh of relief when she arrived because she knew her daughter was safe. However, she also knew that without status in the United States, she and her daughter would always be in danger of being sent back to Colombia, where they would be in more danger than ever.

That’s where Eagan Immigration came in Valentina reached out to Eagan in hopes that the firm’s immigration experts could help her navigate a way forward, and after a consultation and extensive research, Eagan attorneys concluded that Carolina qualified for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS).

This status is available to undocumented minors who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, and thus require the protection of the United States. Since Carolina’s father abandoned her in their native Colombia, Eagan could help her apply for this status. She first applied for this status in January 2021, and within six months, she received notice that her petition was approved, qualifying her for benefits like travel authorization and a work permit when she became old enough to work.

Even better news came just a few months later, however, when Carolina received her green card. Eagan attorneys helped Carolina to apply for permanent residence in the United States at the same time she applied for SIJS. In October 2021, the Carolina and her mother opened their mail to find the words “Welcome to the United States” staring back at them.

Today, Carolina is a lawful permanent resident of the United States and in only a few more years, she will be eligible to naturalize as a U.S. citizen. Valetina’s determination and the sacrifices she made to get her daughter status have paid off, and as Carolina reaches adulthood this year, she will have opportunities that never would have been available to her when she was undocumented.

Other options for mothers to gain status in the United States

While family petitions are one way Eagan clients gain status in the United States, that is not always possible in every situation. Fortunately, Eagan specializes in many other types of petitions that can help our clients gain status.  

T Nonimmigrant Status (T Visa) for victims of human trafficking

Many of our clients have endured unimaginable hardship to protect their children. In some cases, that has meant leaving them behind with family while they go to work in the United States, always hoping to earn enough money to break the cycle of poverty for their kids.

In other cases, it means risking their lives to help the children themselves escape certain disaster in their country of origin. Having children is also often a pressure point used by abusive partners or employers to force parents to work against the will, lest they endanger their children. Getting a T Visa, however, can help clients free themselves from these scenarios (or recover from them emotionally) by giving them a pathway to permanent residency in the United States.

At Eagan, we can seek T Visa status for clients in many scenarios, even unconventional ones. Options include:

  • T Visa based on smuggling. For many of our clients, hiring a guide to bring them to the United States turned their dream of immigration into a living nightmare. Clients who are forced against their will to work for their guide while coming to the United States – such as by carrying a backpack across the border or held captive and forced to work after crossing – may qualify for a T Visa. Many of our clients found themselves in this situation while trying to bring their children to safety in the United States, or to reunite with them there after a separation.
  • T Visa based on domestic violence. Many immigrants have found themselves in situations where a family member, often a romantic partner, deprives them of their autonomy and forces them to do whatever they demand of them. This often includes household labor, childcare or working outside the home but handing over all their earnings. Having children often makes the victim easier to control because abuser/traffickers can threaten to deprive them of their children, either through the court system or by having them deported. Eagan can help take that weapon out of a trafficker’s hand. Read one real life success story of a woman who escaped her trafficker/husband here.
  • T Visa based on labor trafficking. Labor trafficking cases center around an employer using threats, violence or a victim’s lack of status in the United States, either implicitly or explicitly, to compel them to work for low or no pay. Factors for each case are highly individual, but a consultation with Eagan can help determine if you are eligible.
  • T Visa based on sex trafficking. Victims in this type of petition are forced to have sex against their will. Learn more here.

One important note: if you have undocumented minor children, they, too, may be able to gain status as a derivative beneficiary of your T Visa. If your minor child was the victim of a trafficking crime, then you as the parent can be their derivative beneficiary.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Self-Petitions

Abusive relationships are tragically common in every corner of the world, including the United States. Leaving any abusive relationship is hard; on average, it takes victims seven times to successfully do so. In mixed-status situations, where one partner has status and the other does not, it can feel like the U.S. citizen spouse holds all the cards. When children are involved, the situation becomes more complicated in every way with questions of custody, safety and financial security. As one Eagan client puts her reasons for staying for many years:

“I thought that I could bear his violence better than my children could bear poverty.”

A VAWA Self-Petition allows undocumented spouses of U.S. citizen or lawful permanent residence to seek status without their spouse’s support or even his or her knowledge. VAWA offers a path to permanent residency, which can help give undocumented individuals the confidence of knowing that their abusive spouse – whatever they may threaten – can not simply deprive them of their children.

The work permit, often available within six to 12 months of applying for VAWA, can help ensure they can find a job that allows them to support themselves and their children. Leaving an abusive spouse will never be easy, but having status in the United States can help victims have the confidence they need to do so. Think you may qualify for a VAWA petition? Learn more here.

Military Parole-In-Place (PIP)

The undocumented parents of active-duty members of the U.S Armed Forces, military reserves, and veterans can qualify for Military Parole-In-Place (PIP) status. This status gives you legal authorization to remain in the United States for one year, during which you cannot be deported.

During that year, you can also apply for a work permit. While this is also only valid for one year, it can be renewed indefinitely. In some circumstances, military PIP can also lead to permanent residency in the United States. Learn more here.

Wondering whether any of these options could help you or your children gain status in the United States, like Carolina and Valentina? The expert attorneys at Eagan Immigration can help you determine whether you can qualify for this or another type of visa or immigration benefit. Reach out to an immigration specialist today at 202-709-6439 for a free, confidential phone evaluation.