Maria & Ivan

“When I received this photo of my clients Ivan and Maria holding their granddaughter, I almost cried.” says Ana Sofia Cabello, Florence Project Detention Action & Response Team (DART) Managing Legal Assistant. “I met them after giving legal “Know Your Rights” presentations at Eloy Detention Center, where the couple was detained in separate wings.”

Ivan and Maria fled persecution for their work as educators in Venezuela. Having been together for 42 years, the separation in a prison-like ICE facility in their 60s took a toll. Ivan suffered depression and hypertension. Maria was heartsick and anxious. “It was very moving to see them happy to see each other in the visiting room, when I was there for legal visits. I gathered evidence for their case, and guided them to combine their claims, so that win or lose, they’d stay together.”

Each person on DART supports hundreds of cases per year. They empower clients to advocate for themselves, a model created by the Florence Project over our long history of serving immigrants held in remote detention centers in Arizona.

Through our support—and yours—Ivan and Maria won their asylum cases! Reuniting afterward with their kids and grandkids at a Utah airport was “extremely marvelous,” Ivan said. “The feeling in that moment cannot be explained.”

Maria said, “I pray to all the world that this organization continues doing what it did for us. All the support and reinforcement you gave us is why we’re here.”