ICS Clients – Who Are They?
“Cars actually pull over for the ambulance. This shows a high value of respect for sick people” a client related. For most Americans this statement is rather shocking. You mean people everywhere don’t pull over for an ambulance? Unfortunately, many of our clients come from places where there is little regard for the law and others from areas where the laws hold no freedom. Immigrants have legal rights under the U.S. Constitution and laws, but they face significant barriers in access to justice. ICS provides this crucial legal assistance, whether immigrants are coming to the U.S. to reunite with family members, striving to become citizens or fleeing persecution. Here is a sampling of the types of cases ICS handled this year.
In the small Guatemalan village where Maria grew up, there were no paved roads, no police officers and absolutely no protection for a little girl suffering terrible abuse at the hands of her own father. To further complicate matters, Maria spoke only Kanjobal, the language of an indigenous group that had faced discrimination for centuries. She attended three years of school before being forced to go to work. Her father told her that if she ever left home, he would find her and kill her. However, at 14 she gathered enough nerve to run away and in a nearby town she found work caring for small children. Pursued by her father, Maria was forced to move on and on. You can imagine how the story continues. This young girl, all alone with no money suffered some terribly traumatic experiences before finding the refuge and assistance she so sorely needed. With legal assistance from ICS, Maria has now won political asylum, allowing her to live safely in the U. S. with her new husband and baby daughter.
Makeda was arrested as a student member of a political organization in her home country of Ethiopia. While in detention, she was severely mistreated by the police. Nawang brought an additional challenge to his case, the issue of Tibetan statelessness. In many parts of the world the support for the cause of a free Tibet leads to intimidation, threats to family members and often to arrest. While imprisoned, Nawang was deprived of food and water and endured countless beatings. For both Makeda and Nawang, even after their release from prison, each remained in constant fear for their very lives. Now, both enjoy the freedom that Americans take for granted, having earned political asylum with help from ICS attorneys.
This is an oft told story. Gloria and her mom came to the United States when she was three years old. Her mom married a legal permanent resident and in time two more children were added to the family. Gloria is an outstanding student and was looking forward to college. However, her hopes for the future dimmed for she is the one child in the family who is not a U. S. Citizen. With help from ICS, Gloria was able to become a legal permanent resident. Now she can pursue her dream of going to college and becoming a participating member of her community.
The smiles stretch from ear to ear and tears of happiness flow. It’s truly a joy to witness these newly oathed individuals become American citizens. Perhaps Ashanti’s case best represents the long process that finally came to fruition this year. After fleeing her home in the Congo, she made her way to Portland. When her plane landed and her suitcase was in hand, her very first stop was at the ICS offices with a plea for assistance. After an eight year struggle through the immigration process, Ashanti has finally became a naturalized citizen and is already giving back to the community by her work with other refugees.