For Rosa*, the Greater Boston area was a haven from the violence that plagued her community in Central America. However, after years of living in Massachusetts, she was apprehended by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in January 2019 for overstaying her visa. Denied bail, Rosa was separated from her two young children. To make matters worse, her abusive ex-partner received temporary custody of her older child after her detainment. With the threat of deportation looming, Rosa felt utterly devastated.

A Team of Support

Rosa was a longtime JF&CS client, so when news of her arrest spread to our office, her contacts in the agency sprang into action. “We immediately huddled,” recalled Janet Segal, director of our legal services program. “We had to figure out what we could do to help.”

Janet joined with Karen Garber, program coordinator of our bilingual program for young children and parents impacted by trauma and mental health challenges, to devise a strategy to assist Rosa. Together with other JF&CS colleagues, they identified two areas in which they could be of service: Rosa’s custody battle and her petition for asylum.

To aid in the custody case, Segal secured the help of Boston College Legal Services LAB, a community legal services office housed within Boston College Law School in Newton. Attorneys from LAB immediately filed papers in court seeking to protect Rosa’s custody interests while detained by ICE and following her release, if and when this was to occur.

The Struggle for Asylum

Initially, JF&CS could not help Rosa on the asylum front because her family had already hired an immigration attorney on her behalf. However, after Rosa’s initial hearing, which she lost, the attorney the family had hired was no longer involved in her case.

At this point, Garber made a concerted effort to get Rosa the best legal representation available. Garber reached out to her contacts at Greater Boston Legal Services, a renowned legal services organization, and urged them to take Rosa on as a client. “Karen was such a strong advocate for Rosa,” said Segal. “She was relentless.”

Ultimately, one of the immigration attorneys at Greater Boston Legal Services agreed to represent Rosa. After a hard-fought battle, Rosa received a hearing and was granted asylum in June. Upon her release, Rosa was almost immediately reunited with her children.

While everyone at JF&CS is thrilled that Rosa will be able to stay in Massachusetts, Garber notes that “winning the asylum case is not ‘happily ever after’—it is the beginning of a new chapter with new challenges to overcome.” As Rosa continues to face life’s obstacles, we are confident that she has the tools she needs to persevere.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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