Alejandra was one brave survivor of domestic violence who trekked across countries to escape abuse.
*Please be aware that this story contains details of domestic violence act that may be upsetting to readers.
Alejandra* grew up in a poverty-stricken and violent area of Honduras, where she was raised by extended family members after her mother was murdered by a former paramour. When Alejandra was old enough, she moved to the capital city to try and earn a better living for herself. There, she met Carlos. The two began dating and, at first, he was friendly, charming, and affectionate. Eventually, they moved in together and she became pregnant with their first child.
After Alejandra became pregnant, Carlos became increasingly violent. After a particularly violent incident where Carlos strangled her, Alejandra knew that she would never be safe from Carlos’ abuse. Having seen the Honduran’s police unwillingness to get involved in family violence to protect her mother or her friend, who were also victims of violence, Alejandra knew she would have to flee in order to be safe.
When Carlos learned through family that Alejandra was trying to flee to the United States, he brutally raped her, telling her “she was always his woman” and that, “no matter where she went, he would find her.” Fearing for her life, Alejandra and her oldest child Asylee* left the very next day.
Alejandra and Asylee’s journey to the United States was both long and dangerous. They traveled on foot and by bus through Guatemala and Mexico. Often, Alejandra had only enough food and water to give Asylee. Once she reached the United States border, she told a customs and border patrol officer that she was afraid for her life to return to Honduras.
Someone who is afraid to return to their country of origin may be eligible for asylum in the United States, if their fear is based on past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution because of their race, religion, national original origin, membership in a social group, or political opinion, and if they can show their country is unwilling or unable to protect them. As a survivor of domestic and sexual violence, customs and border patrol permitted her entry into the United States so that she could request asylum before an Immigration Judge.
Connecting Alejandra to Supportive Services
Alejandra traveled to New York City and was connected to a Bronx-based immigrant rights organization, who helped her find temporary shelter and connected her to the Safe Horizon’s Immigration Law Project (ILP). At ILP Alejandra met one of our warm, compassionate legal professionals named Kristen. Kristen guided Alejandra in filing an asylum petition. ILP provided Alejandra with full legal representation, helping her to prepare her asylum case, apply for a work authorization, and get connected to mental health and social services resources. After months of preparation, Alejandra went before an Immigration Judge at the New York Immigration Court, where she gave powerful testimony about the impact the physical violence and verbal abuse she suffered had on her life to this day. As a survivor of domestic violence, Alejandra told the Judge, “I still have difficulty sleeping and concentrating. Sometimes I feel worthless and devalue my own self. His words are still inside me. I make an effort not to remember [all that I suffered], but [the words] are still there.”
The Immigration Judge granted her asylum, providing both Alejandra and Asylee* status and protection here in the United States. The very same day, Alejandra’s work authorization card came in the mail, which meant Alejandra could work toward her dreams of saving enough money to rent an apartment, reuniting with her youngest child still in Honduras, and earning a college education. In one year, she will be able to apply for a green card.
As an Immigrant Survivor of Domestic Violence, Alejandra Encourages Others to Get Help
Since her grant of asylum, Alejandra has felt more empowered and has worked hard to continue building a life for herself and her daughter here in the United States. She is proud of how far she has come and urges other immigrant survivors of domestic and sexual violence to seek help.
Alejandra was one of the 1,191 clients that ILP provided full representation to in 2016. ILP is staffed with trained and experienced attorneys that advocate on behalf of immigrant survivors of crime, torture, or abuse in New York City. ILP’s expert legal immigration knowledge contributes to assisting all victims of crime, regardless of their immigration status.
Safe Horizon believes that all victims of violence or abuse, including domestic violence, should be able to seek justice without fear because of their immigration status. You can help ensure that all victims of violence can seek justice by signing our pledge here.
* Client names and identifying information have been changed to protect their privacy. Images used are representations of Safe Horizon’s clients.