When Rosa moved to the U.S. and married her husband, she thought her dreams of love and family were coming true. Unfortunately, her life deteriorated into a cycle of violence and control. There were many tears during her immigration journey, but now they are tears of joy. Rosa recently became a U.S. Citizen with the help of ILJ-Michigan staff, especially Legal Co-Director Jenny Rosario.
Rosa and Jenny have been working together on Rosa’s immigration journey since 2015. When Rosa first arrived in Jenny’s office, she was battered and broken from enduring years of abuse. Rosa was terrified of reporting her husband to the police because her husband threatened to call ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and have her deported. Despite ongoing physical threats, Rosa courageously supplied evidence of her abuse to the police and to the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). Rosa’s courage was rewarded when her self-petition for immigration relief under the Violence Against Women’s Act was granted.
After receiving her green card in 2018, Rosa was finally able to reunite with her family after nine years of separation! Rosa visited her father in her home country of El Salvador right before he died. Rosa returned with a special goal in mind – to improve her English and obtain citizenship. Rosa worked with multiple ILJ-MI staff members to prepare. DOJ Representative Yuwiska Alcantara served as Rosa’s touchpoint by helping her understand and navigate the immigration process. Former Legal Director (and social studies teacher!) Chris Schlegel helped Rosa with civics questions. When Rosa did not pass the English portion of her USCIS interview, Attorney Kourtney James provided Rosa with encouragement and support.
Rosa was discouraged, but she didn’t give up. “I prayed every day. My relationship with my dad helped me keep faith no matter good or bad,” she said. Rosa worked a factory job 12 hours a day and then went home and studied at night. After six months of training and exercises, Rosa was ready for her second try at the citizenship test.
Attorney Shawn Gillum prepped Rosa by doing mock interviews to prepare her for the intense atmosphere of the citizenship exam, an effort Rosa found extremely useful. “It was wonderful because it felt like a real interview! Your office prepared me very well. I am so thankful for your staff for always tending to me.”
After six months of training and exercises, Rosa was ready for her second try at the citizenship test. She was nervous, but well prepared. “I studied every day at work and at home; I tried to keep practicing. But on that day, everyone assured me everything would be okay.”
Rosa’s hard work paid off this past August when she passed her citizenship exam. “I’m thankful for ILJ-MI and the people they have around to help. Jenny was like an angel to me, she’s wonder woman.”
Jenny, Yuwiska and Rosa joyously celebrated the culmination of Rosa’s immigration journey together last week at the naturalization ceremony when Rosa took her Oath of Allegiance. Immediately following the ceremony, Rosa registered to vote and made an appointment with ILJ-MI to begin the petition process for her mother. “I’m thankful that I can help now, and that I can get her to be with me.”
Rosa is another wonderful example of the success that immigrants can achieve despite the many obstacles they face. She now contributes to ILJ-MI as a donor, hoping that others will be able to use the empathetic services and personalized legal aid that she was provided.
“I would recommend anyone to go to ILJ-MI. You can see some don’t have the information that they need; they should know that there are programs that can help and there are places they can go.”
ILJ-MI is honored to have played a part in Rosa’s success story. Our donors and funders make our work for hundreds of immigrants like Rosa possible.