In Mexico, Xochitl* endured deeply traumatic experiences, surviving harm and abuse from cartel members. When she bravely reported the assaults to local police, she became a target of the criminal group. The police warned that she would regret filing the report and that she would pay the price for what she had done, Xochitl recalls.
After barely escaping her kidnappers, Xochitl sought asylum and was sent to immigration detention in Eloy, Arizona. Her mental health deteriorated. She suffered from depression and anxiety, and she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in detention.
Without a public defender system for immigration proceedings, Xochitl represented herself for a year until the court determined she was not competent to do so. Fortunately, the Florence Project’s Direct Representation Team took over, preparing her for the final hearing. Although the judge denied her asylum claim, Xochitl didn’t give up. With our help, she appealed the decision, leading to a higher court order to reexamine the case.
Throughout these proceedings, while still in detention, Xochitl faced numerous struggles, including segregation and suicidal ideation. “[My children] gave me the strength I needed to continue fighting my case until the end,” she says. Our attorneys continued to advocate for Xochitl’s release, and after two and a half years in detention, she was finally granted parole. She reunited with her children, and our social services team supported her transition, helping her find medication and offering emotional support.
The attorneys continued to work tirelessly, preparing for Xochitl’s final asylum hearing. During the hearing, she testified confidently about her experiences and fear of returning to Mexico. The judge finally granted her asylum, leaving Xochitl shocked and thrilled.
Congratulations, Xochitl! 🎉
*pseudonym used to protect client privacy.