By Miguel J., former NWIRP client
My story begins when I was deported to Mexico from the United States in 2010. Being deported was very difficult for me – it meant that I was separated from my family and from the country I grew up in. After being deported, I lived in Guanajuato for several years before moving to Ciudad Juarez. Life in Juarez was very difficult.
Over the eight years I lived in Mexico, I desperately missed my family. I tried looking for opportunities to legally come to the United States but there were no paths open to me.
If I was ever going to see my family again, I’d have to take a risk.
I was supposed to pay some people to get me to the United States. During the process I didn’t know what to expect. They took us to a very dangerous location in Juarez. We were housed in a small shed and it was very hot. We were there for about a month and the people who came and spoke to us were constantly making threats to us. They said they’d hand us over to the cartel if we didn’t listen to them. They were unclear about whether they were going to make us carry drugs across the border.
After we crossed the border, we were taken to a house. The homeowner told us to stay inside the house and not go outside. There was a list of rules in the kitchen of what to expect and what we were supposed to do.
They made us work. I helped pour concrete since I had experience with it. They put me to work. And to make things worse, the entire stay we were being watched. It was awful.
Eventually, we were transported out of that place and taken to a truckstop. We didn’t know where we were or what to do. We didn’t know how to get to the Greyhound station where we could hopefully find rides to our families. Luckily one of the people I was with had a cellphone that worked. So we called a taxi, which we took all the way to Denver, Colorado. Afterwards, I boarded a Greyhound bus to Idaho to be reunited with my family.
But unfortunately, the reunification was cut short. The police came to my house just about a week after I arrived because one of my nephews had committed a crime. They came to question him and because I had been deported before I was able to resolve an old case, I had an old warrant outstanding, so they picked me up as well. They also contacted Immigration and Customs Enforcement. After being held in county jail for a little over a month, I was transferred to the immigration detention center in Tacoma where I awaited another deportation back to Mexico. I was terrified that I’d never see my family again.
My family paid a lot of money to an attorney who was supposed to represent me for my bail hearing but unfortunately he didn’t really do any work on my case. But then someone at the detention center told me there was an organization called Northwest Immigrant Rights Project who might be able to represent me for free.
I went to one of NWIRP’s free consultation sessions for community members held at the detention center and was placed with an attorney named Roxana.
From the very beginning, Roxana was an amazing attorney and advocate. Everytime she came down to the detention center she was clear about what she needed for my case. She was honest with me, telling me it was going to be a challenging case and letting me know exactly what she needed from me in order to have the best chance of winning. After learning about what I went through crossing the border, she decided the best path forward was applying for a T visa, a special immigration protection for survivors of human trafficking.
Roxana made a phone call to me that changed my life on a Friday in May. By that point, I had been held at the detention center for over nine months. She told me that I had won my visa. A few days later, a guard came into my cell and called my last name. He handed me a bag and said I was leaving. I was thrilled. I gave away all the snacks I had saved to other detainees. I gave some drawing paper to a man who really needed it. Everyone came into the cell and congratulated me that I was leaving.
My good friend Jake picked me up. He let me borrow his phone and call my mom. He took me to an Albertsons and said, “Hey, you haven’t had a steak in a year man! We’re going to have a nice BBQ for you to celebrate. How about some ice cream too?” He bought me Tillamook vanilla ice cream, which I now get everytime I go to the store. We had a big BBQ at his place. We went to the space needle. We went to the ocean. And then took a flight to Idaho and met my family at the airport. We drove back home and they were expecting me to want to go to a restaurant but I wanted homemade food. All my sisters were there. I even had some family members I had not met. When we got to the house everyone was excited. I hadn’t talked to people much while I was in Mexico.
Today, my life is so good. One of the benefits of getting my T Visa is that I am able to go back to college. I even got a scholarship. I’ve just started my fall semester and am really enjoying my classes.
I’m really grateful I got in touch with NWIRP. I literally had no idea what I was going to do. My mom paid thousands of dollars to a different attorney who didn’t do anything. I really wanted to keep faith that I was going to get help. When I contacted NWIRP and they told me it was going to be completely free, I was overjoyed. I am so lucky Roxana was my lawyer. I am so lucky to have been connected to NWIRP.