Laura is a survivor.
She survived the dangerous trip to the United States from Mexico, seeking opportunity for her family and freedom from the cartel violence plaguing her home state. She survived her husband’s abuse and constant belittling of her, and she found the courage to start counseling at an agency serving victims of domestic violence. With this support, Laura was able to plan an escape for herself and her daughters, and a compañera from Taller de José accompanied them to a domestic violence shelter. Once she was safely there, she succeeded in getting an order of protection against her husband and started gathering the documents she would need to apply for lawful status in the United States under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA.)
When Laura arrived at the shelter, she felt intimidated by the unfamiliar neighborhood, where few people spoke her language. But, as the shelter encouraged her to familiarize herself with the neighborhood, she gradually learned to navigate the area and make it her home. Since returning to Little Village, she has become friends with many of her neighbors, who take turns watching each other’s kids so they can go to work or appointments.
On the day I met Laura, she had dropped her kids off at her neighbors’ house so she could have an intake with a lawyer. She hoped the lawyer would help her apply for lawful status under VAWA. As I accompanied Laura, helping her find the lawyer’s office, she was chatty at first. But, she became quieter and quieter as she waited for her appointment, anxiously reviewing all the supporting documents she had prepared and organized so carefully. As I waited for her during her meeting with the lawyer, I braced myself for whatever response she might receive: would I comfort her as she tried to manage her disappointment? Or would I be able to celebrate with her over good news?
When Laura finally left her meeting with the lawyer, she was overjoyed. She hugged me, gushing that the lawyer would take her case and that this would change everything for her and her daughters. Winning her case would allow her to receive employment authorization and public benefits for her family, and she could eventually become a Lawful Permanent Resident (receive a Green Card.) It would provide opportunities for her young daughters, and it would also give them stability. As a Lawful Permanent Resident, Laura could make a more permanent home for herself in the United States, and she and her daughters would not have to worry that Laura could be taken by ICE at any moment. Laura felt full of hope about her family’s future.
Like many migrants who escape violence or poverty, Laura is resilient. She has bravely faced every hardship in her life—suffering from poverty and violence in her home town in Mexico, making a dangerous journey to a new country, experiencing abuse from the man she loved—and has found the courage and determination to start over again and again and seek the wellbeing of herself and her daughters. Her husband isolated her from her family and friends so he could control her, but she has broken free of his abuse and now has become a valued member of a community of mothers in her neighborhood who support and care for each other. With courage, intelligence, and the support of friends and community organizations, Laura has survived, and she has changed her story. I left Laura that day feeling that I had learned from her much more than she had learned from me.
All stories are based on real clients at Taller de José. Names have been changed to protect client privacy.