As a legal immigrant, I didn’t know how difficult was to acquire a legal status in the United States neither I knew the struggles that immigrant families go through until I started my career as an immigration paralegal in 2002. Working in my first case gave me a different panorama of the immigrant community and the immigration laws.
My first case that I would call the Reyes case was brought to my attention because they were Spanish speakers and because their asylum application was pending for fourteen years. Five members composed the Reyes family. The Reyes ran away from El Salvador fifteen years before I met them. The reason that they ran away was the persecution that they were victims on hands of the guerrillas and the military. The guerrillas wanted them to join their cause and the military was accusing them of not being good members of the community because they were not fighting against the guerrillas. Mr. Reyes did not have a choice as he told me; they were victims of both groups. Mr. Reyes fled his country with his wife and two toddler children. They arrived to the United States with $200 dollars and a lot of dreams as he told me. At the end of our first interview, I was gladly impressed with the positive attitude that this family had. In their fourteen years of wait, the Reyes had built ties to the community. They were involved in their church and helped other new immigrants to enroll in English classes. Two years after their arrived, the Reyes welcomed a new member in their family. The Reyes run their business from their home. The couple built a cleaning business, and they were doing their best working many hours to provide for their children. They bought a house and they assimilated themselves to the society. The Reyes children were speaking English fluently and they were going to school. The Reyes' oldest son, Juan, won a full scholarship and he was attending a prestigious university. These children were just being good members of the society.
However, in the legal aspect the system was against them. Even though, they fled El Salvador when a war was taken place; in 2002 there was not guerrilla anymore in El Salvador. Surely in 1987, when they arrived to the United States they brought evidence of persecution and yes, all the evidence was submitted on time, but the immigration office misplaced their file, then two years later found the file and sent it to another state. Finally in 2002, the immigration office set up an interview and that was the reason that they were seeking legal advice. At the immigration office, their asylum was not granted and their case forward to an immigration judge. The were told that they may need to be prepared to face a voluntary departure. This condition is asked in case the legal matter could not be granted. The clients needed to be prepared for any results in their case. After being fifteen years in the United States and having a son born in the United States; and being a great asset to the society they were facing voluntary departure.
From The Reyes, I learned that members of the immigrant community learned a new lifestyle and they are aware that they are living in a new system and culture that could give them security and a better life that they had. I also was taught that immigrants assimilated without losing their own identity. The Reyes had it very clear without saying it; they knew that the most important asset for them was their family and they were together,and they left the United States together as a family. From the Immigration laws I reconfirmed that as any other laws in the legal system; we have to follow them and the judges are there to apply them. However, they are not always fair and it will be on the hands of a fair judge to use his or her criteria to apply the laws in each situation with justice.