NWIRP's legal services are critical to helping thousands of immigrants
in Washington State navigate the complexities of the United States
immigration system so they can apply for asylum or other forms of
immigration protection. Without appropriate legal assistance, the men,
women and children served by NWIRP may be less likely to obtain legal
immigration status, and more likely to be returned to a country where
they face ill treatment, torture, or even death.
Access to NWIRP's services can also be a major factor in providing
economic and personal security. Without legal support, our clients are
often unable to access medical assistance, housing or other basic
services, and many of them are afraid to call the police for protection
from domestic violence or other crimes.
After a few months of living together, I saw changes in my
husband when he got a drug problem. He started abusing me, and he
was very controlling. I couldn’t leave the house. I couldn’t talk
to friends or neighbors. I couldn’t even talk to my family.
I had come to the United States from the Phillipines
with a fiancé visa, but my husband never renewed it for me. I was
stuck. I was left alone. I couldn’t work. I didn’t know how to
survive in America. Then I found NWIRP.
NWIRP helped me file for a U Visa. Every time I came down to see
Jenny Mashek, my attorney, I was crying. She listened, lifting up
my spirits. She was the first person that didn’t give up on me
when the world was crashing.
So when I got my green card last month, it was the best thing of
my life. Now, I work, and volunteer, and share my story to help
inspire other women.
Franselia grew up in a small town in El Salvador. She suffered
significant child abuse when she was young, but persevered
throughout and graduated from high school. Shortly after graduating,
her boyfriend was murdered by a well-known gang in El Salvador.
After reporting the murder to the police, local gangs began to
Franselia came to the United States to seek safety. Once she arrived
at the United States/Mexico border, she was apprehended by
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and was sent to the Northwest
Detention Center to be detained while she awaited her deportation
hearing, which would decide if she could stay safely in the US or be
deported back to El Salvador.
Megan, an attorney NWIRP’s Tacoma office, met Franselia during a
Legal Orientation Presentation and was able to take Franselia's case
for direct representation.
Afer being detained for nearly seven months, Franselia was granted
Despite a life filled with hardships, she is consistently
optimistic. Franselia is excited to be reunited with family members
now that she has been released from detention.
I came to the United States from India as part of an arranged
marriage. My husband became abusive, both physically and verbally.
He refused to let me work or to even leave the house without him.
After a few years, he completely abandoned me. I ended up at a
I was lost, alone, and vulnerable in a country I barely knew. The
shelter told me to contact Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and
it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I don’t know how I could have afforded an attorney without NWIRP.
They took my case, showed me kindness, and helped me get a green
card. The day I got that card was incredible. It gave me a
confidence that made me feel like I could achieve anything.
Now I am independent and am excited to apply for US citizenship
Jorge and Mireya
At the beginning, it was nerve-racking. We heard stories of
attorneys taking advantage of other people. But once we got to
know the staff of NWIRP, they were like family to us. They could
relate to what we had gone through.
NWIRP changed our lives, as a couple, by validating opportunities
we couldn’t have before. I got an offer for a job a month after my
DACA application was accepted. So we got out of the Yakima Valley
and we decided to come to Seattle to start a new life. It really
made the difference of validating my dreams. Before, people would
say – why do you dream? Why do you go to college? You’re not going
to be able to work after you graduate. So, NWIRP’s services helped
my dreams come true.
For me – I’ve been able to finish my graduate studies. I’m
currently pursuing a graduate degree at the University of
Washington. After getting DACA, it made everything easier.
Sarai and Jorge
It started many years ago – the bane of my problems with
deportation, and it was a very difficult case. So difficult that
not a single lawyer would take my case. Not even for money. It was
like I was trapped in a tunnel thinking no one wants to take me
out of this. I scream for help, and no one can hear me. But still,
I kept looking.
When we got help from NWIRP, I felt so relieved – almost like a
desert plant finally getting rain. I can now live a much more
stable and secure life with my family. I am much more confident to
fully embrace this American life. NWIRP really helped us chase our
dreams. - Jorge
Joseph and Naomi
Joseph is a Tutsi refugee who fled the Democratic Republic of the
Congo for the United States in the late 1990s during the genocidal
Hutu-Tutsi conflict. He was forced to leave his wife Naomi after
participation in a peaceful protest left him arrested, imprisoned,
beaten, hospitalized and threatened with death.
After arriving in the US, Joseph was immediately put in deportation
proceedings. NWIRP placed Joseph’s case with a pro bono team from
Davis Wright Tremaine. More than 10 years after Joseph first applied
for asylum, and following many legal battles Joseph and Naomi were
finally reunited. Overjoyed at being together again, the two hope to
start the family they have always wanted.
I left Somalia for a lot of reasons. My father, my three
brothers, my uncle were all killed. I didn’t feel safe. There was
no justice, a lot of corruption. In 2010
I came to the United States. I made my way through Cuba, Ecuador, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico before getting to the US.
Those first 24 hours here were the hardest of my life. We were
put in a very cold room. All of our possessions were taken away.
From California, we were sent to immigration detention in Tacoma,
Washington. That’s where I spent the next four months. That’s
where I met NWIRP.
We looked forward to their visits. They tried to get the Somali
community in this city together for us. They helped prepare our
asylum cases. They made sure I got out of there. Their work, to be
honest, was extraordinary. NWIRP is about helping people who need
help. I really thank you guys. It helped knowing people cared.
Now that I’m here, ...I want to work in the medical field, doing
something other people can benefit from.
In 1998, Sergey and his two sons fled Ukraine due to religious
persecution and sought safety in the United States, where they were
A few years later, even as Sergey’s sons were serving with U.S.
forces in Iraq, Sergey was detained. He had traveled abroad and when
he re-entered the U.S., immigration officers claimed that he did not
have the proper paperwork, despite his asylee status. A judge
ordered him deported to Ukraine.
With the help of a Northwest Immigrant Rights Project attorney,
Sergey appealed his case to the U.S. Court of Appeals, where he
prevailed. His deportation order was dropped, and last year, Sergey
became a United States citizen.
Bulgarian Client Receives Amnesty after 11 Years
In his home country of Bulgaria, there was hardly a moment in Ivan's
life when he wasn't being persecuted for his or his family's
anti-communist political beliefs and activities. Even while in his
mother's womb, Communist officials severely beat his pregnant
mother. As an outspoken youth, he was interrogated and detained
several times. As an adult, Ivan spent 15 years of his life being
physically and psychologically tortured in various prisons. He lost
hearing in one ear during an explosion that was meant to take his
life. Ivan was finally forced to flee Bulgaria to protect his family
and preserve his own life.
When Ivan arrived alone in New York in 1993, he received assistance
in completing an asylum application from a local church and was
temporarily allowed to live there. With money from the church, he
moved to Seattle to find work. In 1994, Ivan sought the assistance
of NWIRP, which identified a pro bono attorney to represent him.
While his joined the backlog of asylum applications, Ivan struggled
to find work and was forced to live on the streets in an old van he
bought with earnings from occasional day labor work. In the years
that followed, Ivan lost contact with his pro bono attorney. NWIRP
attempted to locate Ivan, but Ivan was homeless.
When Ivan returned to NWIRP a few years later to check in on his
case, NWIRP's Asylum Unit took the case, helping Ivan apply for food
stamps and connecting him with important services in the community.
After more than 11 years, NWIRP finally received an asylum interview
notice for Ivan. On February 23, 2005, nearly twelve years after
Ivan first came to the United States and applied for asylum, Ivan
had been granted asylum protection in the United States.
Note: To protect his privacy, client's name was changed for this
Client Qualifies for Relief under the Convention Against Torture
On any given day, thousands of men, women and children are detained
by the Department of Homeland Security. They include asylum-seekers
and survivors of horrific abuse. Most of them will face years in
prison. Only ten percent of them will go before a judge with the
help of an attorney.
Masoud Hosseini was one of these men. He was behind bars for four
years. He lost his business, his marriage and 35 pounds. Four of his
teeth rotted. He was never charged with a crime.
More than a year ago Masoud's case was referred to Northwest
Immigrant Rights Project as a case of first impression related to
the Convention Against Torture. On September 28, 2006, the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the Board of
Immigration Appeals decision and awarded relief under the Convention
Against Torture. After four years, he was released from detention.
Risk of Deportation Averted for Mother of four
Angela, a 36 year old mother of four, came to the United States in
1990. Throughout her ten-year marriage to a U.S. citizen, she
suffered both physical and mental abuse. When Angela became pregnant
with their fourth child, her husband left her for another woman and
refused to complete the immigrant visa petition he had filed for
her. Angela feared separation from her children as well as
Angela approached NWIRP's office in Granger after she was placed in
deportation removal proceedings. NWIRP's staff assisted Angela in
documenting and filing an immigration petition for victims of
domestic violence, which was granted eight months later. With the
approved petition, directing attorney, Matt Adams, returned to
immigration court with Angela and applied for an adjustment of
immigration status so that Angela could become a lawful permanent
resident. After a brief hearing on the merits, the immigration judge
granted Angela legal status. Angela burst into tears of joy in the
Salvadorian Granted U Visa for Victims of Crime
Juan Carlos Martinez Mendez came to the U.S. from El Salvador at the
age of 14. His mother, step-father, sister and two brothers had all
obtained legal status. Although he applied for legal status at the
age of 15, he was placed in deportation proceedings almost
On June 29, 2003, Juan Carlos was shot in the head in a parking lot
outside a friend's apartment. He lost his right eye, and his nose
was almost completely destroyed. He also suffered major damage to
the bone in his cheek and eye socket. Despite his injuries, Juan
Carlos spent two years behind bars, with little hope of recovery and
fear of being torn away from his family and the only home he
NWIRP attorneys worked with Juan Carlos throughout two years of
detention and numerous setbacks during a time when he had little
reason to be optimistic. He recently told us, "Mentally and
emotionally NWIRP provided me a lot of strength to not give up."
Thankfully, on January 4, 2007, Juan Carlos was released from
detention and granted relief under the U visa for victims of crime.
Right after his release, he received the procedures to receive an
artificial eye and repair his nasal passages.
Young Man from Malawi Becomes a Permanent Resident
At the age of nine, Otis left Malawi in southeastern Africa to live
with his mother in Washington State. Shortly after he arrived, his
mother was diagnosed with cancer and for the next six years of his
young life, Otis assumed the role of her caretaker. When symptoms
were too severe, Otis arranged for her to get to the hospital and
stayed home alone for days at a time. Otis often went hungry,
sometimes living on Kool-Aid and Top Ramen.
Otis' future looked bleak and uncertain as his mother's cancer
progressed. Risking deportation as his 18th birthday approached when
it's more difficult to obtain documentation, Otis was referred to
NWIRP. A NWIRP staff attorney was able to expedite a Special
Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) Visa application for Otis, and it
was approved just two weeks before he turned 18.
Now a Permanent Resident, Otis is flourishing. He obtained a
driver's license, a job, and even bought himself a car – none of
which he would have been able to do without permanent status. Otis
will graduate from high school soon, and looks forward to a future
filled with opportunities thanks to the help he received from NWIRP.