Immigrant Legal Center is the former Justice For Our Neighbors-Nebraska (JFON-NE). We provide high-quality legal services, education, and advocacy to low-income immigrant individuals and families in Nebraska and southwestern Iowa. We serve immigrants of all faiths, races, abilities, and ages, with an emphasis on the most vulnerable--victims of domestic violence, children who have been abused or abandoned, and people who would be persecuted if they return to the country from which they fled.
In the early months of 2018, we are deeply involved with recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the threat to their ability to remain in the United States to offer their considerable skills and support to our communities.
Ana, her husband Roberto, and their four young children fled to the U.S. from their home in El Salvador in 2016. Vicious gang members, working in conjunction with law enforcement and the controlling political party, kidnapped Roberto, a legal advocate and business owner. They forced him to watch men being tortured and murdered, then showed him a picture of Ana taking their children to school. The violent men told Roberto they would torture and murder his family next if he did not secure the release of two recently jailed gang members.Roberto knew he could not do what they demanded of him, so the family left everything they knew and owned and fled.
THE FAMILY WAS SEPARATED AT THE BORDER
The journey was dangerous, and the family was separated before reaching the U.S./Mexico border. Ana and the children were held in a Texas detention center for a week before being released and allowed to temporarily live with extended family members in Nebraska while they plead their cases in immigration court. However, Roberto was not released and instead forced to plead his case in immigration court from a Texas detention center. He secured an attorney; however, the unscrupulous and unethical attorney did not properly present his case. As a result, Roberto lost his case and was issued an order of deportation
ANA BECAME SICK
Meanwhile in Nebraska, Ana had become very sick. She thought her illness was the result of the stress she had endured in fleeing El Salvador, which increased while she was detained with her children and separated from Roberto.
Much worse, Ana was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
IMMIGRATION LEGAL SERVICES WERE AVAILABLE THROUGH THE HOSPITAL
The social worker at the hospital reached out to our Immigrant-focused Medical Legal Partnership (IMLP) team to help the family. Senior Managing Attorney Mindy Rush-Chipman began safety planning at once, drafting Ana's Will and Temporary Delegation of Parental Power documents, as well as appealing Roberto's case to the Board of Immigration Appeals to prevent his immediate deportation. After repeated requests, he was released from the detention center, where he had been held for over nine months. Roberto reunited with Ana and their children three days before she passed away. He was here to say goodbye to his wife and to grieve with and care for their children.
THE FAMILY IS SAFE NOW, BUT THE CHILDREN'S CASES CONTINUE
The children are now living with their father while our IMLP attorneys continue to work on their Asylum and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status cases. That legal relief would fulfill Ana's wish to keep the children together--with their father--and protect them from the harm they would most likely face if forced to return to their home country.
Recently, the Department of Homeland Services agreed with IMLP attorneys that Roberto should be granted protection under the Convention Against Torture, which allows him to remain in the U.S. The children's cases are still pending.
The Iowa West Foundation has generously provided $20,000 in Challenge Funds to be shared by participating nonprofits it recognizes as being based in or providing services in Pottawattamie County five days per week or more and meeting their funding criteria. These funds will be distributed based on donations coming from Pottawattamie County.