Happy Hour at the Icicle Ridge Winery
On October 1st, our Wenatchee office met with community members at the Icicle Ridge Winery in Peshastin, Washington to discuss their work and share how NWIRP is defending and advancing the rights of immigrants.
Vanessa, the Wenatchee office's directing attorney, thanked attendees for their continued support of NWIRP's work. She then shared a powerful client story, which has been included below. (The client's name has been changed to protect her identity):
I first met Olivia in 2010 when she was referred to our office by one of the local domestic violence agencies.
Olivia and her 2-year-old son, Diego, were brought to the US by her now ex-husband in 1999. When they first arrived they lived in Southern California where they found work harvesting fruit. Olivia was at her husband’s mercy. She worked with him and lived with him and his extended family. She had no one to turn to for support outside of his family.
About a month after their arrival, while high on drugs, Olivia’s husband hit her and left her with a black eye that was bruised and swollen for about a week. This was the beginning of years of physical and sexual abuse. She was isolated and alone. She wasn’t even able to get in contact with her family back in Mexico because he wouldn’t allow it. Time passed and the abuse became more frequent. Olivia told me that it was like clockwork. Her husband would get drunk and high and then the beatings and sexual abuse came.
It got to the point that he didn’t care who witnessed the abuse, and became violent in front of their young child, other family members, neighbors, co-workers and at family gatherings. The police were called several times and Olivia was always cooperative with the responding law enforcement officers even though she was scared and intimidated because of her undocumented status. Her abuser was finally put in jail where he served several months for battery and then was sent back to their home country. Olivia was finally freed from the abuse but was sleeping with her young son out in the strawberry fields where she worked, and was in constant fear of deportation to the place where her abuser now was.
Eventually, she was able to save up and purchase a car and they slept in the car for a while. Olivia then got in touch with her godfather who lived in North Central Washington. She took little Diego and moved to the area in search of a fresh start. She is now finally divorced from her abusive husband and she is remarried to a man who has supported her and Diego throughout the process of healing from the trauma they have experienced.
Our office helped Oliva obtain a U visa for her and Diego. The U visa allows Olivia and Diego to live lawfully in the US for a four-year period. After three years, U visa holders are able to apply for lawful permanent residence and eventually they’ll be eligible for citizenship. Olivia is now comforted by the fact that her and Diego, who is about to turn 18 and graduate from high school, are no longer at risk of deportation. Deportation would mean being sent back to the place where her abuser now lives and being separated from her new husband and their other children, who were born and raised in the United States.
I met with Olivia again just a few weeks ago to help her prepare her application for lawful permanent residence. Olivia, Diego and the rest of the family are doing well. Diego is looking forward to college next year. I look forward to seeing the family again in a few years when they are ready to become US citizens and will no longer be a mixed status family but instead will all finally be US citizens.
I can say that all of us at NWIRP are extremely honored to work with the clients whose lives we are able to touch, whether it be a survivor of domestic violence, like Olivia, an individual from our community detained at the Northwest Detention Center, or a newly arrived unaccompanied child seeking refuge from a violent impoverished country. It is a great privilege to have a small part in improving the lives of people in our community.
Our Wenatchee office helps to ensure that clients like Olivia are safe from violence. Executive Director Jorge L. Barón and Director of Development and Communications Erin Lunde Keenan also spoke at the event, thanking our supporters for their shared commitment to justice.