In January, Victor and his wife Paola sought asylum in the U.S. to escape death threats in Brazil. After passing credible fear tests at the border, the couple was forcibly separated by immigration authorities. Victor was sent to immigration detention in Arizona. Paola, who was seven months pregnant, was released to the care of a friend. Victor spent months in detention, growing more despondent day by day. He missed the birth of their son and felt like giving up at times. Meanwhile, Paola struggled with depression and anxiety due to her husband’s absence and the burden of supporting a newborn alone.
This is a story of family separation, which continues to this day.
Florence Project attorneys met Victor after delivering a “Know Your Rights” presentation to adult detainees and offered to help him. In Brazil, Victor was assisting poor farmers in the Landless Workers Movement when a criminal group threatened his life. The couple relocated several times within Brazil, and Victor notified police, but the assassins continued to stalk him until they fled the country.
We helped Victor gather evidence and prepare testimony for his asylum hearing. He says, “It wasn’t even just 80%, the Florence Project helped me 100%. In detention I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have anyone to help me.”
Victor won his asylum case, which therefore extends to his wife Paola, who still suffered from postpartum depression at the time. The government appealed the decision, prolonging Victor’s detention. We leapt into action, though, to arrange for a pro-bono attorney to defend Victor’s case—and he won! After nine months in detention, the government freed Victor, who finally met his son.
“I had only seen my child through photos and sometimes I would call my wife to listen to him,” Victor says. “We’re together now. The baby is healthy, thank God. Right now, he’s getting his first teeth!”