A young mother and her children find a life free from violence
by Lucy McDermott, Intern for Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors
When Micaela came to Aurora, Illinois, from Mexico with her husband and her two young children, she knew nobody in the United States. Her husband, who abused both her and her children, prevented her from forming new friendships. The rest of her family had stayed in Mexico, but Micaela’s abuser warned her frequently that if she tried to visit them, she would risk being detained by immigration officials when she returned. Micaela feared that she would never see her family again.
Micaela’s abuser acted violently toward her and her children for years. Micaela called the police several times, but each time, her husband would use her immigration status to intimidate her. His threats made Micaela feel trapped; she could not think of anything she could do to give her children a safe and supportive home.
After her daughter had to go to the hospital because of the abuse, Micaela pressed charges and received an order of protection against her abuser. Worried about whether she would be able to remain in the US, Micaela went to the Aurora NIJFON clinic, where she learned that she could file for a U visa. A U visa is a visa granted to victims of serious crimes who cooperate with law enforcement agencies. Micaela hoped that the U visa would provide her and her children a path to citizenship.
The U visa was not easy for Micaela to secure. She had to discuss her case with the Aurora police department and with her NIJFON attorney, Jenny. It was hard for her to discuss the traumatic events that had happened to her with people she had never met. Throughout the process, Micaela developed a trusting relationship with Jenny, who advised and supported her throughout the difficult process.
The first step was to receive a law enforcement certification, stating that Micaela had cooperated with the investigation. At first, the officers hesitated to give Micaela the certification. They believed that when she had declined to press charges after her previous 911 calls, she was suggesting that she was ok with the abuse continuing and was therefore not helpful enough. Luckily, a detective who was knowledgeable about domestic violence explained that many domestic violence victims are hesitant to press charges. He recommended that Micaela receive the certificate because of the help that she had provided.
Once Micaela received her certification, Jenny helped her apply for U visas for herself and her children. She had to wait for more than two years because of an annual cap on the number of U visas. However, Micaela trusted Jenny and was relieved to know that the paperwork had been submitted. Jenny also helped her secure a permit to work in the United States while she was waiting for her visa.
With her work permit, Micaela felt more comfortable in the United States. She began to make friends. Receiving her visa made Micaela feel more at home in the United States. She knew that after having their U visas for three years, she and her children would receive their green cards, making them lawful permanent residents.
When the time came for Micaela to apply for permanent residency, she went back to NIJFON for help. After working with them on her original case, Micaela had come to trust her NIJFON attorneys. Once she received her green card, Micaela was able to travel to Mexico and visit her family again. Knowing that she could always visit her family made Micaela feel less homesick in the United States.
Now, Micaela and her children need to hold their green cards for five years before they can apply for US citizenship. Micaela plans to use NIJFON to help her through this process. She is eager to become a citizen and receive additional legal protections. Though her road to naturalization has been difficult, each step of the process has made Micaela feel more at home in the United States. She now feels supported by a community of her family in Mexico and the friends she has made since arriving in the United States. Micaela hopes that naturalization will ensure that she and her children can continue to make their home in America.