Rebecca is a teacher. She does it because she’s good at it and she knows she can make a difference in her students’ lives. She knows because when she was young, that type of caring and guidance would have made a huge impact on her life.
Rebecca didn’t have an easy life. She never knew her parents, never understood what the word “home” meant. As far back as she remembers, she was in and out of foster care, passed from family to family. Some of the families were good. They cared for her. Others, however, were not. She did what she had to do to survive. Sometimes that meant she had to run away from neglect and sexual abuse from her caretakers.
After a nightmare that lasted two decades, she finally found something to live for. She established her own family through hard work, sacrifice and determination. And it was enough, for a little while.
That’s when the questions started. Where did she come from? Who was she? She had no records of her existence before high school. She had no identity, no status, no idea what to do. Worst yet, she felt fearful of letting her loved ones know that she was undocumented. This fact could undo everything she worked so hard to achieve.
She came to us and we discovered that she could apply for registry; a not-often-used form of relief where a person who entered without inspection before January 1, 1972 can obtain permanent residence status. To do this, we had to look at all documents she had in her possession as far back as we could go. We looked at year books, tax records, letters from friends and family, birth certificates, school records and more to prove that she had been living her continuously. After three years of exploring her past, we were ready to submit her application; but, that’s when the troubles began.
Rebecca lived on a modest salary and could not afford the $1065 filing fee. USCIS’s fee waiver was also unavailable to her, so she had to save money. She saved for several months and by then, we had to update her application with new documents and forms.
After submittal, USCIS sent her a request for evidence stating that her application was on hold because she did not include a birth document. Rebecca was in foster care very early on and had no records of birth. She tried asking family members to go to Mexico for her to try to retrieve any documents, but there were none. Finally, after a final plea with USCIS, they accepted her application and scheduled an interview at our local San Jose office.
The interview went well and the officer was understanding. And when the ink of the approval stamp was dry, Rebecca couldn’t believe it. After years of uncertainty, she was finally a green card holder and in control of her own life.