Carmen Perez recently had an emotional moment with her client *Tiana.
Carmen is a senior legal assistant for the Florence Project Children’s Program. She met Tiana in 2017, when Tiana was 16 years old and had recently arrived from Guatemala. This would be the first case that Carmen worked on from beginning to end.
First, Carmen helped prepare Tiana for a dependency hearing. Tiana had to formally announce to a juvenile court that she no longer wished to be in the custody of her parents because she had endured hunger and neglect in their home.
She mentioned sharing a bed with three siblings and often falling asleep hungry. She left to escape hardship. Over the course of the next six years, Tiana would respond diligently to requests for appointments and information and, together with her legal team, pursue legal status in the U.S.
Last month, Carmen handed Tiana her green card. She’s now a legal permanent resident!
“I told myself I wasn’t going to cry but I can’t help it,” Tiana said.
They both cried, and Carmen offered additional encouragement and congrats before saying goodbye.
“These types of cases remind me what it’s all about,” Carmen says.
“Our clients get so excited when they see they’ve accomplished one more thing toward their dream,” Carmen adds. “You do feel the impact you’re having on someone’s life when this happens. You are making a difference, no doubt. And not only for her, but her kids. It’s a difference for all of them that’s going to impact their lives greatly.”
Carmen has worked at the Florence Project for nine years. Most of our Children’s Program clients are teenagers when we meet and young adults when they finish their proceedings, just like Tiana.
“Although I know this sounds cliché, they’re our future,” Carmen says, explaining why she likes working with young people. “I like being a part of something good that happens in such an important time in their life, and to tell them, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. Follow your dreams. It is possible: you’ve made it this far. We are just allies who are going to be a part of a brief moment in your life, but you’ve got all this future ahead of you. Always strive for the best.’
“It’s super rewarding to see the results of all those years of work.”