Illustration by Echo Rigg for the Florence Project

Gerardo* came to the U.S. seeking safety after cartel violence in Mexico changed his life forever. When he was just nine years old, his mother and grandparents were abducted and killed. He moved in with his aunt, where he suffered hostility and was unjustly blamed for his family’s disappearance. When he turned 15, he was kicked out. With nowhere to go, he slept on the street until a friend offered him a place to stay. He lived with his friend for two years until one day, men with guns entered their home and kidnapped his friend. Gerardo never heard from him again.  

After a couple months, the armed men returned, now for Gerardo. He was beaten and threatened with death if he did not leave the country. Terrified, he tried moving to a different city within Mexico, but shortly after he noticed he was being followed there too. This is when he knew his only option was to seek refuge in the U.S. 

Our legal team connected with Gerardo in 2019 when he was detained in a government-run children’s shelter, and after three years of our advocacy, he has received Legal Permanent Residency!  

When asked about his experience with the Florence Project Legal Team, Gerardo says, “The help I received was great. They did a great job, and they achieved my legal residency status.”  

Gerardo says he feels happy and safe living with his extended family in the U.S., where he is attending school and working full-time, and doing very well! Now that his legal case is behind him, Gerardo has many plans he is excited about. His biggest goal is to graduate high school this year. He is currently taking a course to learn Italian, and his class will be traveling to Italy next year!  

Gerardo also uses weightlifting as a way to escape from stress. “I feel it helps you not just physically but mentally” he says. He has even gotten to meet Mr. Olympia! And he hopes to join a body building competition before ultimately joining the army.  

“After finishing high school, I want to be a pilot in the army,” Gerardo says. “This is a form of appreciation to this country for giving me a second chance.” 

Join us in celebrating Gerardo’s resiliency and recent win!  

*Pseudonym used for client privacy