Santa traveled from Guatemala with her two daughters, who were 5 and twelve years old at the time. They spent eight days riding buses to the border, and then crossed in the desert on foot. They had been walking for five days before they were captured by Border Patrol. She said, “When the police picked us up, I was carrying my younger daughter on my back, and holding the other daughter’s hand. I was afraid that the police would do something bad when the caught us, but he said to calm down, and it was OK.”
When asked why she left Guatemala, Santa explained, “I fled because of all of the violence. I was alone with my daughters.” She continued, “When I first found the law center I was so afraid that no one would help me, but they did. I was afraid because of everything that had happened to me in Guatemala. My brother said that it would be safer here, but I was still afraid.”
She said, “Now I am really happy. Nothing is happening to me like it did before. People are friendly. My daughters are happy here.”
Both of her daughters are in school. Her younger daughter has special needs, and Santa explained that they communicate using sign language. The older daughter is learning English, and is a supporter of SJC’s work and the help they were able to provide for their family.
Santa said, “Emily is a good lawyer because she helped me and listened to me. I’ve heard that some lawyers aren’t like that. When I first came here, I didn’t have any documents. Now I have many documents for me and my family.”
They now have proper identification, Social Security numbers, and permission to remain in the U.S. as refugees. These documents have helped the family turn a corner and begin to build a new life together here.
With all of the newfound protections, Santa still has anxiety about the future. The current political rhetoric has made her worried that her family will be sent away, back to the violence they escaped. She said, “I am safe here with my daughters, and we are happy here. I pray to God that we can stay.”
Photo by Another Look