Six years after migrating from Guatemala to start a new life in the United States, our client Carolina* has been granted Legal Permanent Residency. We celebrated her win with a photoshoot to honor her resilience and introduce her and her daughter to our supporters. Here, Carolina reflects on her journey in a Q&A with the Florence Project Communications Team.
The conversation was edited for brevity.
Q. Can you share a little about why you left Guatemala?
My dad was sick. I was one of seven children. We were in school, but after my dad got sick, his treatment was very expensive, and he couldn’t afford to help us anymore. I decided to come here so I could help my dad and my family. My dad would say, “Don’t go. The journey is too dangerous.” I was 16 years old.
Q. What happened when you arrived?
I was at a [government-run] shelter for about three months. I was going to live with an uncle in South Carolina, but then I could no longer go with him, so my aunt [in Phoenix] started the proceedings to be responsible for me, and that’s why I waited longer at the shelter.
Q. How has winning your case, and now being a Legal Permanent Resident, changed your life and the future for you and your daughter?
Honestly, it’s very nice
to know that now I officially have my residency. I had almost lost hope by the time [the government] gave me the news that yes, I qualified for it. I felt very happy at that moment. It was what I had always dreamed of. My life has changed so much because now it’s safe for me to be here. I’m working and no longer afraid of being deported. I am confident, especially for the future of my daughter, because one day she will go to school and have what I didn’t have.
Q. Could you talk a little about your experience working with the Florence Project?
Since I arrived, I had 3 lawyers. They were all women. They treated me very well. They would always tell me, “Don’t lose hope. We are going to find a way. If we can’t help you in one way, we will find another.” They would encourage me so I wouldn’t lose hope, and we finally won.
Q. What are your dreams now for the future?
My dream is to persevere, work, and one day buy a home. Before, I didn’t have these plans because I thought that at any moment something could happen. But now, I can make my dreams a reality. Having a home, working, my daughter going to school—God will determine what dreams I will fulfill, but yes, I have many dreams I plan to fulfill.
Q. What is something that has been an adjustment for you? Or something that is different, or new, compared to Guatemala?
Well, how do I explain this… honestly, it is much calmer here. In Guatemala, crime happens very often and you are always at risk. But here it is safer. My biggest fear was being deported. I am calmer here.
Phoenix is very nice. I like the heat.
Q. How did your daughter like our photoshoot?
When we left, she was so tired she fell asleep in the car. Later, when she woke up, she said, “Mom, the photos!” She got happy. And because she smiles a lot at home, but when others are around she’s very serious, I told her, “Why didn’t you smile like that earlier?” She said, “No, mami, I don’t like to.” And right now, I showed her the video [of the photoshoot on the Florence Project Instagram page] and she said, “Wow, mami, it’s me!” It’s the first time we’ve taken professional photos. It will be a lovely memory for us. Thank you.
* Pseudonym used to protect privacy
Carolina’s final immigration appointment, where she thanked attorney Zoe Sperber with a bouquet of flowers.