“Daniel’s case offers us a great example as to why the TVPRA is so important,” says Laura Belous, supervising attorney for the Florence Project’s Children’s Team in Tucson.
Passed in 2008, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act strengthens federal trafficking provisions and expands the rights of unaccompanied children who enter the United States. Thanks to the TVPRA, kids like Daniel can go through a less adversarial asylum process, even having their final interview outside of the courtroom.
In Honduras, Daniel suffered serious domestic violence at the hands of his stepfather, who would lock him out of the house for nights at a time when he was as young as five years old. By the time Daniel migrated to the United States, he’d been living on his own for years, but even this hard-won independence had failed to prevent his stepfather’s continuous abuse.
Like so many, Daniel endured a torturous journey to the U.S. He was deported from Mexico and had to make the trek a second time, during which he was kidnapped by a cartel and held captive for days until someone could pay the ransom for his release.
Because those in immigration proceedings are not guaranteed a lawyer, many, even children, are forced to brave going to court alone. When the Florence Project received a referral for Daniel’s case, he’d already been to one court hearing by himself. “I was all alone,” recalled Daniel. “I could hardly bring myself to speak to the judge. When he gave me the asylum application, I couldn’t understand it.”
Attorney Laura Belous and Legal Assistant Beth Lowry got right to work. They made sure to file Daniel’s asylum application a few months before his 19th birthday so that he would still be protected by the TVPRA. They met with him for hours to prepare his case, and even bought him pan dulce to give him a dose of extra energy and courage before his final interview.
Daniel’s asylum case was swiftly won and he received the good news right around his 19th birthday. But Daniel’s case with the Florence Project didn’t stop there. Beth and Laura helped Daniel enroll in traffic school when he got a ticket for driving under the speed limit. They took him to the food bank for basic provisions, and when his case was approved, they made sure to help him with the application process for asylum benefits, which include medical and dental insurance and free bus passes.
“He’s the sort of kid who has always been focused on what’s important to him,” Laura said of Daniel. “His family has always been the most important thing to him,” added Beth. “And he’s never lost sight of that.”
When Daniel naturalizes, five years after having won his asylum case, he’ll be able to petition for his mom to lawfully migrate to the U.S.
About the future, Daniel feels hopeful. “I’ve always liked to help others. I used to help the pastor at my church in Honduras.” He would run programs for people with alcohol and drug problems. “My dream is to be able to study theology and one day become a pastor here in the United States.”
“We often post about recent client wins. But today we checked on a former client to see how he’s adjusted to life in the US. Daniel fled Honduras as a teen to escape an abusive stepfather. It has been almost five years since he won asylum, which we wrote about here: https://firrp.org/daniel/. Daniel now lives in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where he paints houses, lives with friends from church, he cooks, (he admits he’s not crazy about Southern food), and he sends money home to help his mother and siblings.
“Life is calm. I don’t walk around with fear here,” Daniel said. “I like [the U.S.] because it has its rules and people respect them. It’s a country of order. This agrees with me.”
To relax and have fun, as he continues to recover from a difficult childhood, Daniel and his friends go bowling, jump on a trampoline, and play music at their church. He taught himself to play the drums via youtube! In the future, this enterprising young immigrant wants to start his own business. “This is a country of opportunities,” he said.
Daniel is eligible to apply for citizenship this spring. We wish him the very best!”