When Cecilio was 15, he escaped his father’s abuse and fled Guatemala in search of safety. On his way north, he was abducted by smugglers, who locked him in a house full of migrants near the border and detained him for a month. “I wondered if I would ever get out,” he said. “I had no contact with my family.” The smugglers finally released him, and he crossed the border. He was apprehended by immigration authorities and sent to a shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children. Cecilio was finally sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Phoenix, with a pending immigration case.
Upon arriving in Phoenix, Cecilio, a minor, represent himself in his first court hearing. He was terrified in his first court hearing, as he stood alone in front of an immigration judge. Fortunately, Cecilio connected with the Florence Project, and we were able to represent him. Florence Project attorneys applied for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) for Cecilio, a protective status for abused, abandoned or neglected children. Cecilio won his case, after nearly two years of fighting, and is now reunited with his mother and eligible for a green card. “I couldn’t believe I was finally a resident,” he said. “It felt like a dream.”